Michael's Dispatches

New Britches



07 September 2011
Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

American troops have been losing their britches in combat.  Until now, I’ve never seen so many troops exposing their hardware in battle.  Many warriors go “commando” into the fighting, meaning that in the name of hygiene, comfort, or perhaps in honor of the skirted-Hoplites and the kilted-Scots, they wear no boxers or briefs.  This creates a twist to the venerable question: Boxers, Briefs, or Commando?  The previous question is difficult to answer without controversy or even a fistfight.  However, in Afghanistan, what is known and supported by my own photographic evidence is that troopers have begun wearing knickers as backups for inconveniently breached stitches in their britches.

While the styles and fashions of war are eternally in flux and different everywhere, even within the same military and within the same conflict, war itself is always en vogue.  Insofar as clothing, in this war it’s poor form to walk into a conservative village waving your gun without cause.  In Afghanistan, a man merely going shirtless can be offensive to some ethnic groups. For example, Hazars and Tajiks don’t seem to take offense to shirtless men, while Pashtuns do.  In general, pantless men seem to be offensive in nearly every culture wherein men don’t regularly carry spears to work.  Yes, granted, somewhere deep in the Congo or the Amazon River Basin, someone is out there hunting with poison darts and climbing a tree wearing nothing but a nose ring, but that’s not here.

In this war of bombs, rockets, and bullets, suddenly finding yourself as a man with no pants can distract from combat effectiveness, especially while pushing through a briar patch on a dark night, or while sitting on scorching desert earth.  After all, if you don’t include things like antibiotics and sunscreen, clothes are the first layer of body armor.

2011-07-31-121817-1000This Air Force TACP is giving new meaning to “commando.”

And so on 30 August I published, “We Need Better Pants.

The popular blog Military.com also publishes my dispatches, and reprinted, “We Need Better Pants” within minutes of it going up on my website.

The response was immediate.  On 01 September, two days after my original publication, new knickers were reportedly on their way.  Military.com published: “Combat Pants Rushed to Afghanistan.”

According to Military.com, the “Line of Departure” blog reported on August 30 that problems with the durability of Army uniforms in Afghanistan are widespread. Photos show Soldiers loading mortars during firefights with pants torn “from crotch to knee."

And that’s it for now.  Let’s see if the better britches really show up.  Barring the unforeseen, I should be here as witness.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Antun · 10 years ago
    I can't (nor do I need t tell you how much of a problem this problem of quality trousers is. There never seemed to be a firefight or any other mission that required more than light movement wherein one of my Joes or myself routinely tore our ACUs. And this has been YEARS! Thanks for helping to bring some attention to this!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 10 years ago
    Antun -- all part of the friendly service.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Roger · 10 years ago
    From 'your lips' to the 'right ears!'
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ben · 10 years ago
    I wrote about crotch blowouts while I was in Iraq. Good stuff

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=19491 090560
  • This commment is unpublished.
    James McConnell · 10 years ago
    It's so dissappointing to see that to this day getting something as seemingly mundane as quality trousers to our military forces is beyond those assigned the job of testing and approving such items. MilSpec Standards are supposed to be tough to meet. Who is dropping the ball? Thanks for staying on this, Yon. As a 21-year Marine (USMC Ret)and father-in-law of an active duty Marine I am PO'd about this nonsense.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John - Capt in ANG · 10 years ago
    Got little love until it got public spotlight, and then every congressman had to have a soundbite about it.

    I'm no rocket scientist or infantryman, but within weeks "behind the wire," I saw it. It mostly bothered me as a USAF Captain to see desk jockey's in uniforms that looked like garbage. If you wear them out, and rip them easily sitting on a chair 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 months, (as these Army guys/gals did) it's a no brainer what happens outside the wire.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack Handy · 10 years ago
    "Officials say there is no plan to build blouses out of Improved Defender M."

    Sweeeeeeet. 8)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wayne Hutton · 10 years ago

    Is it a little coincidental that you highlight poor logistics/supply about the troops needing pants and then the brass tries to spanking you over not violating OpSec... Is it just me.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sara Johnson · 10 years ago
    I wonder if Carhart has ever considered going "Camo". They hold up really well. What a amazing story to have gotten a response so quickly. Counting on you to be there when they arrive! Stafe Safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wayne Philpot · 10 years ago
    Mr. Yon, you are THE man at noticing, jumping on, and publishing these nuggets of greatness that would otherwise get blown off by the rest of the world. I would think that our warriors deserve the absolute BEST quality products to make their business with, and it appears that the britches aren't included in the ranks of "the best". I can't imagine the distraction of a blown out set of britches while haji is lobbing ordnance at me... Thank you, again, sir, for taking care of our boys with the tools taht you have available to you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sara Johnson · 10 years ago
    Oh, in addition. . . there are designs with LOTS of pockets. Someone needs to talk with them!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rich W · 10 years ago
    Well done sir! I'm sure the troops will be grateful to you for bringing this issue up & exposing the problem to the light of day. ;-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Makowski · 10 years ago
    The military branches ought to hang their heads in shame they weren't able to accomplish through the chain of command what a single war correspondent can do with his blog. I can only hope the leadership was predisposed with killing enemy fighters to overlook this issue. Hats off to you Michael. Your reporting remains spot on and is widely read...obviously by those with the power to make changes.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 10 years ago

    Thank you for the note. A clarification on OPSEC: the military has never disembedded me for OPSEC. That rumor was perpetuated by the Blackfive blog. In fact, a Blackfive writer wrote, and said on a radio program, that I had been disembedded from Canadians for OPSEC violations. I have never embedded with Canadians. That same Blackfive writer makes himself out to be expert in warfare but has never been to Iraq, Afghanistan, or any war to my knowledge.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jw · 10 years ago
    do the brits and/or the aussies have this problem or is it unique to us?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dee · 10 years ago

    This post is the one that moved me the most with a troop with blown out britches. The photo of the medic with the crotch of his pants worn out makes me angry every time I look at it!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kathy Benton · 10 years ago
    My son says that this doesn't happen to the Marines's pants.
    Maybe the USA could get theirs from the same company....
    Cold weather is coming soon. We don't want to see soldiers coming back with frostbitten...well, you know....
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Arthur J. Harvey · 10 years ago
    My son is at another FOB in the brigade you traveled with.
    He had previously told me about the lousy quality of their pants.
    Thanks Michael for getting the word out and helping get these soldiers properly uniformed.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Buckaroomedic · 10 years ago
    I noticed this happening with the ACUs when they first came out. I thought it was because the younger soldiers wear their pants "a little lower" than us older guys. That's not the case, just crappy construction. This is what you get with the "lowest bidder" mentality so rampant in the Army. I remember that the OG107 would start to fall apart after a few trips through the jungle, and the quartermaster laundry. They were made cheaply though, designed to be DX'd on a regular basis. Maybe that's an idea; design and build very cheap, throw-a-way combat uniforms that would only last one OP. Would probably save millions in laundry charges.

    I wonder why our modern fighting uniforms don't have the same "diamond" gusset in the crotch like all my civilian outdoor pants? This would probably solve the problem with a very easy fix.

    Keep up the good work!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Martha Brown · 10 years ago
    Maybe whoever ( ??? ) makes the pants decide the the Soldiers won't last long, so why make the pants to last either. Such as shame, our men and women deserve much better.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wayne Philpot · 10 years ago
    [quote name="Kathy Benton"]My son says that this doesn't happen to the Marines's pants.
    Maybe the USA could get theirs from the same company....
    Cold weather is coming soon. We don't want to see soldiers coming back with frostbitten...well, you know....[/quote]

    Spoken like an awesome momma!!! Thank you ma'am for raising what I know has to be a great man.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Josh Cook · 10 years ago
    Good work Michael! Thank you for having a positive impact on the lives of our troops.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bev Bain · 10 years ago
    Had to laugh when I saw this photo again. My son is the soldier with the torn pants. When I talked with him yesterday he asked me to send him a sewing kit for his pants and shoe goo and a leather needle to fix his shoes.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael St. John · 10 years ago
    Maybe a stupid suggestion - but have the wives, parents or other loved ones ask the soldier for thier ripped out trousers to be sent to them (un-washed). When received - send them to the White House with a note asking for a solution.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jeff Stanley · 10 years ago
    I'd guess that what has caught the attention of TPTB, toward possibly doing something about the pants situation, is the thought of offending civilian sensibilities.

    "Oh jeepers! So this really is a problem then?"

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Stephen Lewis · 10 years ago
    "That same Blackfive writer makes himself out to be expert in warfare but has never been to Iraq, Afghanistan, or any war to my knowledge"
    Sorry you have to deal with such disinformation Mike. It can make for so much friction in life..

    Isn't the purpose of the Natick labs to field test military equipment to make sure it works the right way? Pants blowouts are inexcusable. Our fighting men and women deserve the very best.

    Carhartt is a good idea, but to my recollection the company's clothing is made in Mexico now; which I believe cannot be done for MilSpec items, correct?

    Stay safe Mike!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim · 10 years ago
    Unfortunately this is the "improved" pants. The acu has had several modifications to it along with the transition to MultiCam. They know these pants are crap and thats why they come with a "patch kit". It does nothing for the infamous crotch blow out however.

    On a serious not the EOD team leader you covered back in August, throwing 40 mike mike rounds like baseballs, has been injured. As far as I know he has lost both his legs below the knee. I'd love to see more news about my EOD brothers out in the "Horn". Long story but I feel like they are taking on the burden of my work, and would love to hear more from them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dotan Baer · 9 years ago
    Uniforms are sold to the government based on the LOWER bidder winning the contract. We can offer a better pant but it costs more and they will not accept the bid. This is why the stitching in the ACU's, has deteriorated due to everything is being made CHEAPER, to win a contract.

    As anyone who ever served will tell you, you have to BUY your OWN GEAR and EQUIPMENT if you want it to work.

    I suggest 5-11's, they are the sturdiest pants on the market, that should be integrated into the service.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Francesca · 5 years ago
    I was curious if you ever considered changing the layout of your
    site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the
    way of content so people could connect with it better.

    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two images.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

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