The Army is ripping space-age Velcro from its uniforms and replacing it with the humble button, which turns out to be tailor-made for the rigors of Afghanistan.

Hook-and-pile tape — the generic term for Velcro— strains to keep jam-packed cargo pants pockets closed. And when the Taliban attacks, the last thing soldiers need to worry about is spilling their gear.

Soldiers told superiors that Velcro didn’t suit their needs, and the Army began testing alternatives last year, said Debi Dawson, an Army spokeswoman. In August, the Army will begin issuing new pants to soldiers heading to Afghanistan.

“When concerns surfaced in surveys that the hook-and-pile tape was not holding under the weight of full pocket loads, the Army evaluated several solutions,” Dawson said. Velcro has been part of the latest Army combat uniform since it was introduced in 2004.

Dirt and rocks also clog the pile portion of the fastener. That requires soldiers to clean it regularly. An Army website offersthis helpful hint: a soldier’s small weapons cleaning brush has been “working very well” in removing dirt and sand.

“This is the latest proof that dust and debris are the biggest enemy for the U.S. military,” said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute and a consultant to defense contractors. “Taliban attacks come and go, but dust is constant in Afghanistan. Dust will impede the function of anything.”

Sgt. Kenny Hatten cut to the heart of the matter in this posting on an Army website, urging the military to go back to the future:

“Get rid of the pocket flap Velcro and give us back our buttons,” Hatten wrote. “Buttons are silent, easy to replace in the field, work just fine in the mud, do not clog up with dirt and do not fray and disintegrate with repeated laundering.”

Source: Tom Vanden Brook for USA Today.

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