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Ward Eldridge, left, shows a grenade launcher to Staff Sgt. Noel Harris, of Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, South Korea. The Program Executive Office Soldier show during the past week gave soldiers throughout the peninsula a peek at the newest weapons, equipment and technology.
Ward Eldridge, left, shows a grenade launcher to Staff Sgt. Noel Harris, of Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, South Korea. The Program Executive Office Soldier show during the past week gave soldiers throughout the peninsula a peek at the newest weapons, equipment and technology. (Erik Slavin / S&S)
Ward Eldridge, left, shows a grenade launcher to Staff Sgt. Noel Harris, of Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, South Korea. The Program Executive Office Soldier show during the past week gave soldiers throughout the peninsula a peek at the newest weapons, equipment and technology.
Ward Eldridge, left, shows a grenade launcher to Staff Sgt. Noel Harris, of Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, South Korea. The Program Executive Office Soldier show during the past week gave soldiers throughout the peninsula a peek at the newest weapons, equipment and technology. (Erik Slavin / S&S)
From left, Pfc. Ivan Varela, Pvt. Benjamin Crumley and Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Weed look at new weapons, such as the one Weed is holding, an XM26 12-gauge shotgun. The shotgun is designed to attach to the M4 rifle.
From left, Pfc. Ivan Varela, Pvt. Benjamin Crumley and Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Weed look at new weapons, such as the one Weed is holding, an XM26 12-gauge shotgun. The shotgun is designed to attach to the M4 rifle. (Erik Slavin / S&S)
Francis Hayden shows the mesh shirt worn under the new generation of body armor.
Francis Hayden shows the mesh shirt worn under the new generation of body armor. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Reading about future weapons and equipment is one thing. But it bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground for many soldiers.

When that same gear is displayed outside the Camp Casey post exchange, soldiers like Staff Sgt. Noel Harris get the same look in their eyes as a kid in a toy store.

“Outstanding — it’s good to know we’re getting lighter, better equipment,” said Harris, of Tucson, Ariz., a member of Military Police Platoon, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “If we see them here, we know it’s really coming.”

Soldiers gathered around tents Wednesday to see the new equipment at the Program Executive Office Soldier’s roadshow Wednesday, as they did throughout last week at bases around the peninsula.

The show featured everything from an airburst rifle still in development to thermal scopes that are ready for combat.

If there was a theme to the overall display, it was on less weight and more user-friendly features, as seen on a new hand-held grenade launcher.

A soldier “could pick this up without any instruction and in five minutes could be hitting targets downrange,” Harris said.

Soldiers asked several questions about the new Interceptor body armor and outer tactical vest on display.

The vest is lighter and redistributes weight from the shoulders to the hips, said Francis Hayden, of Program Executive Office Soldier. It includes an emergency release tab and other features that allow medics chest access in seconds.

A soldier wears a lightweight mesh shirt instead of a jacket and cotton T-shirt under the vest.

The vest comes in 11 sizes instead of the eight previously offered, Hayden added. It is now being worn in Afghanistan and will be fielded in Iraq in October, he said.

Items drawing wide approval from soldiers included:

A range of new thermal-vision rifle scopes that offer better optics with a clear view of a rifle’s laser pointer and longer range.A semi-automatic, magazine-fed sniper rifle that replaces the old internally fed, bolt-action rifle.A compact 12-gauge shotgun that attaches to the M-4 rifle.The gear impressed several soldiers with combat patches on their shoulders, as well as newer soldiers such as Pfc. Simon Wilkerson of 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery’s headquarters battery.

Wilkerson hasn’t been deployed to a combat zone, but he figures it’s only a matter of time.

“I want all of it,” Wilkerson said. “Seeing this (equipment) makes me feel a lot more comfortable about going. A lot more confident.”

Details on the gear are available at http://peosoldier.army.mil.

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