A recent post on the DOD’s media release branch has shown elements of the 180th Cavalry Regiment (National Guard, based out of Oklahoma) on a security mission around the Afghan capital of Kabul. Unique to the quick-eyed observer would be the extensive use of Steiner Optics DBAL Advanced Target Pointer/ Illuminator/ Aiming Laser (ATPIAL) devices mounted to the M4 carbines of the troopers on patrol. Although not an extremely rare sighting among U.S. Forces, it is worth noting that the use of the DBAL series of ATPIAL devices is far exceeded by the L3/Insight Technologies AN/PEQ-15, AN/PEQ-16, LA-5, and most recently from the company (currently in use by SOF elements) the Next Generation Aiming Laser. Of course, this is relatively speaking because there was a 66,040 DBAL unit order in 2012. What exact model of DBAL is being used by the troopers is unknown, possibly a DBAL-A2 which falls under the nomenclature of AN/PEQ-15A when in use by the U.S. Military.
Although the L3 series of ATPIAL devices and the Steiner ones aren’t identical or interchangeable, operationally there is little difference between the more widely-used AN/PEQ-15 and the DBAL-A2. Soldiers used to one ATPIAL device can easily transition to the other through basic training and familiarization procedures.
But why is this particular Guard unit armed with DBAL-A2s instead of the more standard AN/PEQ-15s? One possible answer may be due to their status as a Guard unit and might receive more funding from the state of Oklahoma and thus might be able to purchase items outside of standard issue, such as the embedded knee pads in the trousers that the soldiers are wearing (not widely seen in theater with other U.S. soldiers). Another point might be that the AN/PEQ-15As came to the unit when orders came through for it almost a decade ago at the heights of OIF and OEF and these are simply left over and what the unit finds that works best.
For more information on the DBAL or AN/PEQ-15A, check out these U.S. Army photographs of the devices in use. In addition to these photographs, it appears that U.S. Air Force SOF units might have used them occasionally as well. Also read this article in 2005 mentioning their adoption, this one published in 2007, or the contract details on 66,040 units of DBAL-A2s in 2012/2013.
Much Thanks to Daniel Watters for finding some of the articles mentioned at the end!