My travels today took me down to the Fort Lewis area. My, what a lot of activity is going on around there. When I think back on the Clinton years, it was less busy. Anyway, when I'm in the area, I sometimes stop in the shops off-post to see what's for sale. There are a number of shops in Ponders (pawn shops) and Tillicum (so-called "surplus" stores) that are possible sources of funds for skint soldiers. When soldiers run out of money, they sell stuff. Re. the misnamed "surplus" stores, I say this because they really don't sell items that they bought as surplus from the government. They sell stuff that soldiers bring in to them. Soldiers bring things in to sell to the stores to get cash money. The stores turn around and resell the stuff for more money, mostly to other soldiers. Some of the stuff that the soldiers bring in to sell isn't theirs. That's putting it kindly, isn't it?
So, I look around in these stores just to see what kinds of things soldiers use these days. My oh my, they have all kinds of fancy little gadgets and gear that was undreamed of during my time in the Army. They use a number of little pouches, straps, and other things I couldn't identify. Most of it isn't cheap, either. As a lowly example, the Army makes a much nicer pair of socks to wear with boots now, but new ones cost $14 a pair. These socks actually have elastic in the tops that works and holds them up. The old Army issue socks had uppers that would stretch out on their first washing, forever after falling down to your ankles inside your boots.
I also looked at the "new" Army fatigue uniform with the digital camoflage pattern. These are called "ACU's" for Army Combat Uniform. The shirts don't have a real collar, but they do have a nice heavy zipper on the front instead of buttons, closed up with a couple of Velcro pads.
When it comes to zippers, I have this great, big question for the Army uniform design people. I'm sure they researched all this, but still I have to wonder. Why do they still make fatigue trousers with the button fly arrangement? Would very many people disagree that a zipper is far easier and faster to use, both important attributes at times for soldiers?? Maybe the uniform engineers think that a zipper isn't as sturdy under strenuous use as buttons on the fly. Well, the jungle fatigue trousers I wore in Vietnam in 1970-72 all had zippers, and never did one blow out. The heavy-duty zipper on the new ACU shirt would find a nice home on the trousers; it's a much nicer zipper than the crappy one we had on jungle fatigues which was like those found on a cheap pair of civilian slacks. Our OD stateside fatigues had zipper flies in them, too, but when the army came out with the woodland camo BDU's in the early 1980's, a step backward in time was taken when these were made with the button fly. Well, if it was good enough in WW1, I guess it's good enough now.