In my day we wore a pair of blue jeans over jungle boots, an OD green t-shirt, and a camo tunic. Head gear was limited to a narrow-brim boonie cap or a headband made from either an ammo bag strap, or a rolled up triangular battle bandage. Comms were limited to 5 miles max using a VHF transceiver that was the size of two DVRs stacked on top of each other. The battery was the size of a firebrick, felt like it was made of lead, and you had to carry two if you wanted comms all night long. Trees and hills could cut the signal distance to less than a mile! All inter-personnel communications were accomplished entirely by hand-and-arm signals with no speaking from the time you left the perimeter wire until the time you returned to home base.
The most “exciting” and controversial gear was the pantyhose that some guys wore to discourage leeches from attaching to your legs and “junk”. It took an understanding girl friend or wife to send those to her SEAL overseas and remain confident that he was wearing them in the slews and wasn’t using them to buy time with a “boom boom” girl in town.
You can look at the camo picture of me (above) from 1971 and see the standard “load out” for SEALs at that point in time. We’d add starlight flares, bandoliers of 7.62 ammo for the M60 man, and lots of extra magazines for the M16 riflemen but otherwise, fairly simplistic compared to today’s ballistic plate carriers and tactical vests.
I often mentally compare the war conditions from the Vietnam era and the modern urban/high-desert combat in Iraq and Afghanstan. Seems clear to me that the load out we carried was ideal for muddy, swampy, jungle, and that anyone dressed in the modern tactical load out would quickly sink from sight in the first flooded rice paddy. Seems equally clear that anyone wearing a simplistic jungle load out in today’s modern combat environs would be the gear equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight… i.e. severely under equipped and ill prepared.
The gear and the tactics are different because it’s a different kind of warfare.
The warriors of today bear absolutely no resemblance to those I worked with. Operators today look like STORM TROOPERS and they live and work in the urban and rocky environments which have held the most action for the last 13 years. I only wonder how any of them would handle rotten wet dense jungle overlaid on a maze of inland waterways, streams, and stagnant pools where vision is often limited to only a few yards. What would happen if all the batteries and comms and fancy optics didn’t work, and there was absolutely no body armor and very little air support. What if the only thing between the operator and the environment was a soaking wet pair of blue jeans, mud filled jungle boots, and a piece of canvas strap tied around your forehead? How would the operators of today function? I know the guys in the Teams would fare relatively well, although it would take some time to get their jungle wits about them.
But all of that is old school and that’s all I know. I read about some of the gear of today and I shake my head in wonder and awe. I don’t know crap about who makes it, or what’s needed, or how to use it. My “sling” was a piece of parachute cord tied to the butt stock of my weapon at one end and the front sight at the other end. The world of war fighting has changed, and I really haven’t kept up. I like to think that I could still function in the wet and nasty.
I’ll be 63 in December, and most of my joints make enough noise to give me away to any nearby enemy combatants. I still gotta wonder how today’s guys would function without the Storm Trooper gear.
Steve “Moose” Robinson
This action figure does a good job of demonstrating some of the kit worn by modern Frogs during Operation Neptune Spear.