Contrary to popular belief, guys have been cutting pockets off the front of their BDUs and attaching them to their shoulders far longer than one might think. In WWII members of the 101st Airborne can be seen wearing modified uniform blouses, soldiers in Vietnam would often sew pockets onto their sleeves or cut them off all together. Similarly guys deployed to the Sandbox in recent years continue this practice, cutting the belly pockets off the front of the DCU blouse and if they were lucky, having the battalion seamstress sew them to the upper shoulder, often adding Velcro loop panels for IFF patches and swag. This mod which came to be know as the RAID mod, allowed pockets to remain accessible while wearing the Interceptor body amour, which became a standard feature with introduction of the ACU.
By around 2002 most guys deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan wore Under Amour compression shirts underneath their DCU/ACU blouse to aid in sweat wicking and it was only a matter of time before someone thought to combine the two elements.
The Battle Lab at Fort Benning had been getting a lot of complaints from the troops about overheating as a result of the body amour and they shared rumors that certain SOF units were cutting the sleeves off of their DCUs and sewing them onto T-shirts. The trick was to leave a strip of fabric connecting the sleeves across the upper back because T-shirts weren’t designed to take the weight without stretching.
By eliminating the added layer of material around the chest and back areas (which was a notorious area for trapping heat while wearing body armor) it allowed sweat to be more easily brought to the surface where it could evaporate quickly all the while increasing air flow and providing much needed breathability for warfighters deployed in these harsh desert environments.
The term RAID mod, as these modifications came to be called, loosely referred to any BDU/DCU tops that had undergone any of these alterations. There is some debate on how the term ‘Raid-mod’ came about, one theory suggests that a tailor at Ft. Bragg offered the modification and called it the ‘Raid Mod’ and it just stuck. Another theory, and probably the most logical; is that since these shirts were specifically designed for use with body armour, which were almost always worn during raids due to the close proximity either in urban environments or camps of some type.
It was from this that the, the Modern Combat Shirt was born and since then a myriad of manufactures have refined, and further popularized this design. Brands like Crye Precision, Drifire, along with others started cashing in with the release of their own variations, some with more features; pockets, elbow pad compartments, and reinforced joints but the overall design remains mostly unchanged.
Below, is a ‘Raid-modded’ BDU top made from a standard issue M81 woodland blouse (Stock number: 8415-01.184-1330) and an Army-issued undershirt. This combat shirt has also has had the sleeves chopped down to a 1/4 sleeve length.
If you found this interesting, I highly recommend reading this article about the history of the Soldier Modernization Program here.
You can Also read my brief article on an example of a DIY RAID-modded Pant.