Uniformly Stupid? Part 1

If you ever visit the naval side of the military blogosphere, like this, or this, or this or this,  you will soon find one of the quick and easy ways to generate hits and comments is to post about the new navy uniforms.

Certain things are just true: the sun rises in the east; the new Chief of Staff of the Air Force will change who in the Wing owns the wrenchbenders who fix the planes, and the new Chief of Naval Operations will set about changing the uniforms. And do it badly. Usually at great expense. Via a committee.

The Army, on the other hand, has been remarkably resistant to this change. The whole time I was in, there were pretty much only two uniforms you had to have. One was the BDU or Battle Dress Uniform.

Korea, 1987, I'm the guy with the radio.
Korea, 1987, I'm the guy with the radio.
Your author, in '86, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Your author, in '86, on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The BDU was the primary uniform for work, either back at the home base (what we called “garrison” or in the field for training or war. It was comfortable and practical, loose fitting for ease of movement with large pockets to help carry all the stuff you needed when away from home for long periods of time. It was inspired by the jungle fatigues of the Vietnam war, which were in turn ispired by the paratroopers jump suit of WWII. It was used with few changes from the early 1980’s until just recently.

When troops were stationed in the desert such as during the first Gulf War, they were issued a desert variation of the BDU, the DCU, which came in the original “chocolate chip” version and later, the three tone version.

Around 2004-2005, the BDU was replaced by the Army Combat Uniform, or ACU. The first obvious change is to the camo pattern. The BDU pattern was an adaptation of the Engineering Research & Development Laboratory pattern of 1948 or ERDL 48. The new pattern was a digital pattern of small “pixels” that research showed to actaully do a better job of hiding the wearer in most situation. More subtle changes included changing the layout of the pockets, adapting the jacket to be used with body armor, adding velcro fasteners, zippers in place of buttons, and changing from a black leather boot to a rawhide tan version that didn’t need shining.

Virtually every photo you see today of soldiers in Iraq today shows them in the ACU. Most photos of the Iraqi National Army will show them in a variation of the BDU.

See Part 2 here.

19 thoughts on “Uniformly Stupid? Part 1”

  1. Did your hear that there is another uniform in the works? Future Force Warrior is being demo’ed here at Fort Bliss.

    Another idea is “ranger” ACU’s. They have pockets in the sleves for knives and tools.

    The problems is that many ACU’s are not ripstop. They tear too easily. When you buy a set check the label. It has to say “ripstop” on it otherwise you’ll buy a new set in less then two months (or less).

    New Field jackets and rin gear in ACU. They are still issueing out cold-war era gear untill the stuff runs out.

  2. Yeah, I even put a pic up back in the “Nintendo Army” post, and you commented on it. I like the look of the test uniforms, but I’m afraid we might be going down the same street as the Navy, were everyone thinks they have to change the uniform.

  3. Very nice. I don’t understand the immense focus on uniforms. They have their purpose and place but getting excited about such a boring outfit doesn’t make any sense.

    I notice in the last photo Capn America’s flag is the wrong way around which means they flipped this photo. I suppose you’d know his real rank assuming he’s not just a model.

  4. Aaron, if you spend your entire career wearing the same outfit, things like comfort and durability and appearance (and cost) weigh pretty heavily. I didn’t stay awake at night worrying about them, but little things like the buttons always coming off of a new uniform pissed me off.

    The photo wasn’t flipped. There’s an arcane reason the flag goes that way, having to do with the field being on the flags right. Take a look at where the ejection port and forward assist are on the weapon. If the photo had been flipped, they would have been on the other side. Real soldier, SSG assigned to the Infantry Center and School, though it is a posed shot.

  5. Per AR670-1:
    (2) The full-color U.S. flag cloth replica is worn so that the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. When
    worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the
    wearer moves forward. The appropriate replica for the right shoulder sleeve is identified as the reverse side flag.

  6. uugh, long day! but yeah, I remember. Aaron, between a new combat uniform and the new Army service uniform our paycheck are taking a beating. Nowadays WE, the soldiers, have to pay for uniforms. And you have to have all four sets by the wearout date of the old uniform.

    BUD’s just wore out, the ASU was supposed to be in Post Exhanges by now, but problems and complains over the unifom have delayed it.

  7. Aaron, when you first join, you get a full issue of everything you are supposed to have, free of charge. Each year, enlisted personnel recieve a clothing allowance based on the expected longevity of the items in your clothing bag. Unfortunately, at times like this when there is a major change in uniforms, like from BDU to ACU, it does catch you in the pocket.
    I will say this, though- When we got back from Desert Storm, they replaced 4 sets of BDUs and the accessories for them. That saved a ton of money.

  8. A new Air Force Chief of Staff always changes the uniforms. McPeak gave us the stupid v-neck t-shirt. He was a dick. Not at all surprising that he’s an Obama supporter.

  9. The Army Service Uniform was going to be a “plain” dress blue, until airbonre units complained about now being able to wear jump boots, soldiers with badges complained about the lack of badges, soldiers with combat patches complained about the lack of combat patches….etc…etc….

    Yes you get a clothing allowance every year, but ACU’s only last 6 months if that. The cloting allowance was supposed to go up for the ACU and ASU, but we’ll see. For now it looks like our wallets are gonna be a bit thin…

  10. chock, as bad as it gets sometimes, I just remind myself that I never had to wear bell-bottoms. I just remember my High School girlfriends 40-something year old dad wearing them. That’s why I didn’t join the Navy… 🙂

  11. Dont cover it up. ACUs are ABSURD… As is the ASU. They are both inneffective.
    Gravelflage and the Clown Suit

  12. k4c, tell us how you really feel.

    I guess I’m an outlier on the ASU, but I really haven’t heard that many complaints about the ACU lately, other than the velcro.

    1. They suck. They fade, the stitching falls apart, they stain easily. The velcro not only is stupid and not necessary, but the stitching falls out of it, too, so even if the rest of the uniform is still serviceable, the velcro flaps. And your nametapes don’t fully stick to the velcro after a while, either. Nor do they fade the same as the uniforms do. Oh, and the velcro on the cargo pockets on the pants stops holding the pockets closed. And the little string and closure device on the cargo pockets presses into your hamstrings when you sit, unless you cut it off. Not to mention the pattern matches nowhere on earth but within 100m on either side of the Tigris or Euphrates rivers. My opinion, the design / layout of the uniform is okay, but the lack of quality, poor camouflage pattern, and the use of velcro vice buttons, velcro name/army tapes, and the use of pin-on badges are all retarded, and don’t outweigh the utility of the design.

Comments are closed.