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CHIPS Articles: Corps requests proposals for enhanced hearing device for situational awareness, tropical uniforms

Corps requests proposals for enhanced hearing device for situational awareness, tropical uniforms
By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication - April 30, 2020
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps is asking for industry’s help in providing enhanced hearing protection to Marines. On April 22, Marine Corps Systems Command released a Request for Proposals for a suite of hearing enhancement devices that interoperate with the Enhanced Combat Helmet and Marine Corps tactical radios. The technology will increase Marines’ situational awareness in a variety of training and combat environments.

“The program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment intends to purchase Hearing Enhancement Devices for every infantry and infantry-like Marine,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Leahy, MCSC’s Individual Armor team lead.

In fiscal year 2020, MCSC received $10 million Operation and Maintenance, Marine Corps funding to purchase hearing enhancement devices.

Per the RFP, the hearing enhancement devices must be rugged and adaptable to various environments, from cold weather to extreme heat. The system would allow Marines to wear hearing protection, yet still enable them to communicate and understand their surroundings.

PM ICE will assess the submissions to ensure compatibility with Marine Corps radios and the Marine Corps ECH. The systems must include versions that are both communication-enabled and non-communications enabled.

MCSC estimates the new hearing protection will be fielded to infantry units in fiscal year 2021. PM ICE will conduct New Equipment Training with each unit receiving the technology.

Provides added hearing protection

In addition to improving Marines’ situational awareness, the hearing enhancement devices will also offer additional hearing protection.

The hearing enhancement devices will complement the Combat Arms Earplug Generation IV—the Marine Corps’ current hearing protection system—by offering a secondary level of protection to further avoid hearing damage.

“The hearing enhancement devices and current earplugs provide double hearing protection, giving Marines more protection from extremely loud noises,” Leahy said.

Leahy believes the Hearing Enhancement Devices will serve as an important asset for Marines on the battlefield.

“Purchasing these devices is a clear indication of how the Marine Corps is investing into the warfighter and giving Marines an edge on the battlefield and in training,” said Leahy.

On April 14, Marine Corps Systems Command released a Request for Proposals to industry for new tropical uniforms for Marines to wear while training or embarking on missions in warm-weather climates.

The Marine Corps Tropical Combat Uniform is a rapid-dry, breathable uniform that can sustain for prolonged periods in hot, humid and wet environments. The MCTCU will provide an alternative to the current Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and the Marine Corps Combat Boot.

“This new tropical uniform allows Marines to be more comfortable and less fatigued while focusing on the mission at hand,” said Lou Curcio, MCSC’s MCTCU project officer.

The MCTCU comprises trousers, a blouse and a pair of boots. The trousers and blouse—the focus of the RFP—are made of the same blend of cotton and nylon as the MCCUU, and features the same camouflage pattern. The difference is in the weave and weight, resulting in a lighter material that dries more quickly.

Both pieces of clothing are treated with permethrin to provide protection from insects.

The boots, awarded on a separate contract, are also lightweight, with self-cleaning soles to improve mobility in a tropical environment. They are more than a pound lighter than the current boot fielded by the Marine Corps.

“MCTCU will bring many advantages during training and combat in tropical environments,” said Curcio. “For all the sacrifices and challenges they endure, Marines deserve a uniform like this one.”

Between June and September 2017, hundreds of Marines participated in various user evaluations to assess the durability, fit and function of a prototype tropical uniform. The prototype comprised a fabric blend of nylon and cotton, designed to dry faster and keep Marines cooler in warm climates.

MCSC’s Program Manager for Infantry Combat Equipment leveraged this feedback to inform industry solicitations and other decisions.

“Many Marines said the MCTCU feels like pajamas, appreciating how lightweight it is,” said Curcio. “They also noted how quickly the uniform dries upon getting wet.”

Based on January 2020 market research and responses to a November 2019 Request For Information, the Marine Corps should see a potential cost reduction of at least 25 percent and as much as 60 percent per uniform.

MCSC plans to purchase 70,000 trousers, blouses and pairs of boots for the MCTCU to support the Fleet training or operating in tropical climates. The command procured more than 10,000 sets of blouses and trousers under a Manufacturing and Development effort.

Fielding of the MCTCU is slated for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020.

Curcio commended the Clothing and Equipment Team at PM ICE for their diligence and dedication in providing an effective uniform to Marines.

“The team at PM ICE has worked many hours in testing, developing and fielding the MCTCU,” said Curcio. “They deserve kudos for a job well done.”

To learn more about MARCORSYSCOM, visit www.marcorsyscom.marines.mil and www.facebook.com/marinecorpssystemscommand.

A Marine communicates a message to his team while wearing a helmet protection system. On April 22, Marine Corps Systems Command released a Request for Proposals for hearing enhancement devices to protect Marines’ hearing while increasing their situational awareness in a variety of training and combat environments. MCSC will assess the submissions to ensure compatibility with Marine Corps radios and the Marine Corps Enhanced Combat Helmet (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe)
A Marine communicates a message to his team while wearing a helmet protection system. On April 22, Marine Corps Systems Command released a Request for Proposals for hearing enhancement devices to protect Marines’ hearing while increasing their situational awareness in a variety of training and combat environments. MCSC will assess the submissions to ensure compatibility with Marine Corps radios and the Marine Corps Enhanced Combat Helmet (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe)

An infantry Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conducts patrols wearing a prototype tropical utility uniform Oct. 5, 2017, during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation exercise at Kahuku’s Training Area, Hawaii. On April 14, Marine Corps Systems Command released a Request for Proposals to industry for new tropical uniforms for Marines to wear while training or embarking on missions in warm-weather climates. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Monique Randolph)
An infantry Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conducts patrols wearing a prototype tropical utility uniform Oct. 5, 2017, during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation exercise at Kahuku’s Training Area, Hawaii. On April 14, Marine Corps Systems Command released a Request for Proposals to industry for new tropical uniforms for Marines to wear while training or embarking on missions in warm-weather climates. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Monique Randolph)

An infantry Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conducts patrols wearing a prototype tropical utility uniform Oct. 5, 2017, during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation exercise at Kahuku
An infantry Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conducts patrols wearing a prototype tropical utility uniform Oct. 5, 2017, during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation exercise at Kahuku's Training Area, Hawaii. On April 14, Marine Corps Systems Command released a Request for Proposals to industry for new tropical uniforms for Marines to wear while training or embarking on missions in warm-weather climates. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Monique Randolph)
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