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U.S. Marine Corps Looks to New Tropical Combat Uniform

The Product Manager Infantry Combat Equipment (PdM-ICE) at United States Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) is conducting market research with potential application toward a new Marine Corps “tropical combat uniform.”

Marines in the Pacific

Sgt. Gary E. Lehman, a squad leader with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and a native of Murrieta, Calif., leads his squad through the thick jungle to begin a live-fire exercise, Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 4, 2013. The Marine Corps’ shift to the Pacific will result in different uniform requirements. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Codey Underwood

According to a recently-released announcement, current explorations seek “to identify fabrics with improved moisture management and reduced dry time for use in a tropical combat uniform.”  Acknowledging that “the fabrics used to construct the current Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform  (MCCUU) and Flame Resistant Combat Ensemble (FRCE) do not dry out sufficiently in tropical environments,” the announcement describes a notional tropical uniform design that would include a uniform shirt and trousers, as well as “under layers” of t-shirts, briefs and socks.

“PdM-ICE anticipates using a government-owned design for the tropical combat uniform, t-shirt and briefs,” the announcement notes. “Respondents are encouraged to submit fabrics suitable for a tropical environment. However, end item designs will also be considered as an alternative to the government-owned design. PdM ICE does not plan to use a government-owned design for socks.” The announcement identifies a number of threshold and objective requirements for the tropical uniform fabric, covering characteristics like drying time, weight per square yard, tear strength, vertical wicking, air permeability, and other factors.

According to the announcement, PdM ICE anticipates releasing a solication in early FY14 for approximately 35,000 of the new tropical uniform sets.

In order to brief interested industry representatives on program objectives, PdM-ICE is planning to host an Industry Day on Jan. 17, 2013. The proposed agenda for the event includes question and answer periods following the program briefing as well as time for informal discussions with industry and individual breakout sessions.

In addition to the Industry Day opportunities, industry is also being encouraged to submit “information papers that describe tropical combat uniform and under-layer fabrics being developed, and outline the technical approaches taken to meet the performance requirements specified” in the request for information.

U.S. Marines In Afghanistan

U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, begin a patrol out of Forward Operating Base Shamsher, Helmand province, Afghanistan Sept. 6, 2012. The shift of focus to the Pacific comes after a decade of war in the hot and dusty climates common in Central Command. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jason Morrison

Service desire for a new tropical combat uniform reflects the U.S. defense strategy shift toward the Asian-Pacific region, following a decade of combat emphasis in Central Command.

In a September 18, 2012 speech before The Atlantic Council, for example, General F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, observed, “We’re kind of returning back to an area that probably we understand. We bring a lot to that part of the world. With our Navy partners on board Navy ships, quite honestly, we can partner with any nation along the littorals that wants to deal with us. We don’t need a base; we don’t need a base of operations. We can actually just operate either off the ship or we could come ashore with a very little footprint, so we intend to capitalize on that as we shift our forces coming out of Afghanistan, and we’ll end up with about 22,000 Marines west of the International Date Line…”

Another concrete example of the change in geographic emphasis can be found in recent a statement of work for “role player support” released by the 3d Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. Among the personnel and equipment required to support the Marine Corps training were “(14) Philippine role players to perform duties in the capacity of an opposition force and civilians on the battlefield…Language Requirement is Tagalog Cat I. Philippine role players must be within the age range of 18-50, (3) of the 14 Role players are required to be women.”


Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-114410">

    I am pleased with the forward thinking regarding area specific uniforms
    Semper Fi!

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-116519">

    Expect the Army, et. al. to follow suit soon, except theirs will have a more “butch” nomenclature and not function or look nearly as good

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-116623">

    It sounds like they may be looking for a material such as the moisture wicking fabric, which is a kind of fabric that is commonly used in workout clothing and sportswear because the material is designed to pull moisture away from the skin. However the concern that came about 6 or so years ago regarding synthectic fabric melting and causing a higher risk of infection in a burn situation makes me question what fabric other than cotton would eliminate that concern.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-117021">

    Merino wool fabrics have FR properties up to 1000F, dont melt and have anti bacterial properties reducing the risk of secondary infections. The new generation merino fabrics are lightweight, fast drying and can handle the hot humid conditions of Asia. Merino wool actively manages moisture unlike the synthetics which rely on a differential in the relative humidity between the body and the external environment. Nature had this worked out long ago we just need to be a bit smarter in how we use it.