“Oh, FRCK IT” I thought to my self as I teetered on the gunnel tube of a 32 foot Rigid Inflatable Boat skipping down lake Thar Thar, Iraq at 20 knots. But I’m getting ahead of myself, this story starts almost 8 years earlier in December of 1999 when a ch-46 was trying to land on a small deck and caught the landing gear on a safety net and flipped in to the ocean killing 7 of the 18 Force Recon Marines, EOD attachment, and crew aboard, thus kicking off the DOD’s requirement for a maritime release.
Fast-forward to 2007 when I got to my first unit 1st Recon Bn Bravo Co 1st Plt whose platoon sergeant happens to have been in the Force platoon that lost those Marines in 1999. He was compelled to remind us of our need for maritime releases in numerous training events. Two short months later we were in Iraq replacing 3rd Recon when they showed us an alteration that they had done with the Camp Fallujah’s hajji tailor to the second chance vest from their FSBEs. This modification consisted of pockets for the front, back, and both sides plates and a large elastic cummerbund which held the side SAPIs close to the body preventing bounce but also allowing for expansion and contraction with breathing and changing of positions. An added benefit was that the Recon teams could maintain their PPE requirement after dropping their Rhodesian rigs with all the weight of their ammunition and extra kit once they settled into a hide site. This unfortunately was made with substandard materials and lacked a maritime release, but being in West Anbar Province that was acceptable.
Later, on that deployment we were tasked with amphibious boat raids attached to Rivron in Lake Thar Thar requiring the entire platoon to reconfigure the gear back into the traditional FSBE setup with Maritime releases. Once on the boats I had a moment reaffirming the value of a maritime release. After hours of skipping off waves going 20 knots I had to pee. Unfortunately on a 32-foot RIB there is no bathroom facility nor is it possible to hold on to the guardrails while balancing on the gunnel tube and wrestling 3 inches of dick out of 5 inches of PPE to relive myself without pissing all over myself or the boat. This coupled with the realization that I was wearing over 90 lbs of kit made me ponder both how quickly I would shoot to the bottom of the lake if I fell overboard and how quickly I could actuate the Maritime release. Fortunately somebody grabbed me by the horse collar (our flotation device) which allowed me to finish my task without falling in, this is also a great way to get over being pee shy.
Upon returning from this deployment most of the modifications had started falling apart and had received a lot of combat repairs via duct tape and led to a very ragtag looking bunch. This was compounded when we shared a known distance range with HQ battalion which led our Gunner to lose his shit and revoke the authorized use of that modification. Fortunately, our new platoon sergeant worked with various manufacturers in the industry to put cleaner military grade SAPI pockets and elastic cummerbund on our second chance vest. This was adopted by many platoons within the battalion for our 08-09 deployment and many deployments thereafter.
After I EASed (for the first time) I decided I needed more personal abuse so I joined 1/23 SSP (a reserve grunt sniper platoon) for a trip to Afghanistan. Once getting to the unit we were issued the scalable plate carrier which was a tremendous leap forward in maneuverability over the old CIRAS/MTV style armor. Doing TCCC training we realize that the inner and outer cummerbunds with the Velcro flap were impeding our ability to do blood sweeps while assessing patients. At this point I had met the founders of Ares Armor and began moonlighting in their sew shop. After a full day of training with my unit, I shifted to the sew shop where I developed what is now the plate carrier silencer. It was a Velcro anchor with two side release buckles which allowed the user to unclip the cummerbund rather than un-velcro, These buckles sped up blood sweeps and made it easier for everyday doff and done.
After returning from this deployment I began working full-time for Ares Armor first as the custom sewer, then taking over the entire soft goods manufacturing, and eventually becoming the president. While there I developed the Derma plate carrier (my first rough experiments with cobra buckles elastic and maritime releases) and the D.U.C.K. which was fielded by the entire Recon platoon attached to the15th MEU in 2015 to rave reviews despite inferior elastic and a crude but effective maritime release. In 2015 I left Ares after a disagreement with the new ownership. At that point I was ready to leave the tactical industry completely, but many of my loyal customers asked me to continue manufacturing my IP as they preferred not to support the new ownership of Ares.
This led me to start my own company, Arbor Arms, and developed the Flex Releasable Cummerbund Kits. This drew from my experience in West Anbar using elastic to support the side SAPIs but now with the ability to molle directly to the elastic, the quick clean maritime release I wanted in Lake Thar Thar, uses rugged mil spec materials that Gunners like, allows for quick, quiet; doff, don, and access to patience with a single buckle, and allows for end user serviceability because #Murphy. Arbor Arms is proud to present the FRC Kit after years of experience, testing, streamlining and collaborating with end-users to create a quality, innovative, functional plate carriers and cummerbund kits. Remember if you don’t like your current armor, FRCKit.
By Jonathan ZumMallen ©201