You have to love the military. Everything they come up with has some epic acronym. You can literally have an entire conversation with a military person and replace every noun with an acronym. “NCO’s and CO’s often ask if all CE personnel have their AFMAN 10-100 while conducting an ORI/IGX.” This kind of chatter is often daunting to someone who hasn’t been immersed in that culture. Which brings us to the All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment, or ALICE. In 1965, the US government began the Lightweight Individual Clothing and Equipment development program. The military implemented this program to find gear to replace the M-1956 Load Carrying Equipment, or LCE. ALICE gear is still in limited use in some National Guard and Reserve units, but it maintains a training only status.
The development of the LINCLOE load-carrying equipment did not officially begin until after approval of the task by the United States Material Command Technical Committee [AMCTC] on 27 April 1966. Development of lightweight load-carrying equipment really began in 1961 with the development of the Lightweight Rucksack, made of nylon fabrics and an aluminum frame, which weighed 3 pounds as compared to the 7.5-pound cotton canvas duck and steel item, which it replaced. The entire aim of the project was to reduce the amount of weight soldiers had to carry with them, thereby increasing their combat effectiveness. The developers initially came up with a few core items.
- Belt, Individual Equipment – The individual equipment belt was changed by eliminating the center row of eyelets and replacing the single-end hook adjustments at each end with double-end hook adjustments which engaged in the two outside rows of eyelets for size adjustment.
- Vest, Combat – The closure devices first utilized plastic snap fasteners and hook and loop pile on the Vest. Developers later changed this to plastic quick release fasteners as they failed during preliminary testing. Researchers replaced the vest with suspenders a year later.
- Carrier, Entrenching Tool – Developers replaced the M-1967 nylon Entrenching tool carrier with a molded one manufactured from ethylene-vinyl-acetate.
- Case, Field First Aid Dressing – The military utilized plastic belt-strap keepers on the field first aid dressing case. These replaced the standard steel M-1956 belt-strap keepers.
- Cover, Water Canteen – Plastic belt-strap keepers attach to the water canteen cover. These replaced the standard steel M-1956 belt-strap keepers.
One of the most commonly seen items in the ALICE system is the ALICE Field Pack. Available in small, medium, and large, the ALICE Field Pack is a favorite among some military enthusiasts and hikers. Modern day hiking packs adopted an internal frame, which replaced the less comfortable external frames of the ALICE. The pack is still in use, however, especially the large pack, which is useful due to its very large capacity and low cost.
Most of the military has phased out the ALICE system in recent years. The modern implementation of the MOLLE system has all but replaced the ALICE due to its lighter weight and versatility. Some military organizations such as the Marine Corps still use the ALICE system for training, but once deployed, military commanders issue most troops modern equipment.