Around 1999 SOCOM started issuing a pack system by Gregory/Bianchi, commercially called the UM21. Affectionately, it was known by many who used it as the StrapMaster 2000 for the outrageously long Black 1″ webbing found all over the main pack. Usually issued in Woodland there were a limited number manufactured in 3-Color Desert camo, primarily for 5th Group.
This photo of a burdened mule was taken very early in Operation Enduring Freedom during the so-called Horse Soldier operations. It remains my favorite photo of the UM-21 because one look at the mule’s face and you’ll see how everyone felt while carrying that beast. In fact, you won’t run across many photos of troops actually wearing the Main Pack. Although it did incorporate a few innovative features, the Main Pack was partially manufactured from rubberized fabric and was heavy even when empty. The Main Pack (with PALS compatible side pockets), Patrol Pack and Butt Pack along with 5 stuff sacks made up the system weighing 17 lbs all told.
Although it was fielded as part of the Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) program, it’s design and selection pre-dated the team that fielded such great items as the MICH, MLCS, PCU and SOF Handwear. In fact, it was developed before the Family of Packs was broken out as a separate program from Body Armor/Load Carrying System (BALCS). BALCS ALSO included body armor as well as an Enhanced Load Carrying System subsystems in addition to the UM21.
To learn more, download the UM21 manual.