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.
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.