Time rapidly running out for RFI

By Pfc. Leah R. Burton
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — September 15 is the last day Soldiers have to acquire combat equipment from the Rapid Fielding Initiative here

Soldiers, who need a size that wasn't available at the time of their issue, should return Sept. 13 through 15 to check on the shortages.

After Sept. 15, the facility will move to Kuwait so that the staff can catch Soldiers coming into country for the first time or returning from rest and relaxation leave, who may have missed their opportunity to get outfitted.

"Basically, RFI is a way to get the latest equipment to the Soldier faster than ever before," said Maj. John C. Cisney, Army liaison to the civilian contractors issuing the gear.

Normally when the Army develops new equipment, a stockpile builds up before the average Soldier sees the gear.

"With this program, we get it to the Soldier as fast as the manufacturer can put it out," Cisney said.

The equipment that Soldiers should receive includes winter and summer desert boots, glove system (summer and winter aviator gloves), hydration system, fleece bib and jacket and the Advanced Combat Helmet.

"The things the Soldiers most enjoy are the boots. They're a lot more comfortable than the standard issue boots," Cisney said.

The ACH is about one-half of an inch shorter at the base than the Kevlar, allowing more freedom of movement. It has been argued that the shortness of the ACH exposes more of the Soldiers head and neck to injury.

"It's a trade-off," Cisney said. "We can wrap the Soldier 100 percent in Kevlar, but we won't have as functional a Soldier. If the Soldier has to get in the prone or look up, he or she can do so with the new ACH."

Brigade Combat Teams have priority in the issuing of the ACH. Eventually, all Soldiers will receive the new helmet as well as all other RFI.

In addition to these items Soldiers receive silk-weight long underwear, goggles, cold weather cap, combat belt, ballistic eye protection, and moisture-wicking socks and T-shirts.

RFI issues two different types of goggles, one type that fits over prescription eyeglasses and one type that doesn't. Female Soldiers receive moisture-wicking sports bras, as well.

"It was a special need. Females have to buy their own bras," said Cisney. "This is a way to standardize the issue process and defer the cost to the female Soldier. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on the sports bras."

BCTs will also receive additional combat related equipment to include door rams, grappling hooks, battle ax, assault ladder and close combat optics. All echelons above brigade receive just enough heavy combat related equipment to outfit a quick reaction force.

The program was started in 2002 in Fort Belvoir, Va., to offset the cost to the individual Soldier of purchasing much needed gear that the Army didn't provide. "The Army decided that Soldiers should not be spending out of their own pockets. These are things that every Soldier should have, and the Army should be providing them," Cisney said.

The mission of RFI is to outfit the entire operational Army by the end of fiscal year 2007. So far, the organization has gone from fielding 2,000 Soldiers in fiscal year 2002 to 120,000 in fiscal year 2004.

The 82nd Airborne Division received its first 15 items from RFI in November 2002. Based on feedback from the Soldiers, PEO Soldier made some changes to the original list of equipment and completed the issue to the 82nd ABN Division, as well as the 101st Air Assault Division and 10th Mountain Division in fiscal year 2003.

Program Executive Officer's RFI is set to depart LSA Anaconda for Camp Doha, Kuwait. After Sept. 15, units that have not been outfitted must go to Camp Doha, Kuwait, or have a mobile sizing team come to their location and size Soldiers where they live. The team then goes back to the warehouse and organizes individual Soldier kits and ships them or delivers them to the units. "We don't want to miss anybody," Cisney said.

Soldiers who redeploy without having been issued RFI should look for it at their home station.

RFI is on Sustainer Road within the fenced in compound just past Sustainer Circle. The business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Editors Note: Pfc. Burton is a member of the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. She is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.

 

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Spc. Alberto Esquilin, 266th Ordance Company, tries on the summer weight NOMEX aviator gloves while James Giles, fielding specialist, looks on.

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Sgt. Zoua Xiong, 29th Signal Battalion, tries on the new issue desert boots. The boots are the most popular item among Soldiers, according to Maj. John B. Cisney, Army liaison to the civilian contractor issuing the gear.