Why Do We Even Bother With Camouflage?

So, Soldier Systems Daily had an April Fool’s post about the Army ditching camouflage and going back to the simple, green uniform of yesteryear.

Apparently, so industry insiders didn’t notice the date of the post (or even the over the top post itself) and whined a little bit.

But Breach Bang Clear asks the obvious question, why bother with camo?

And really, I have had it in the back of my head that for the most part, it really is stupid to have camo uniforms.

The woodland pattern Battle Dress Uniform was a good, fairly cheap, serviceable uniform. It was based on the OG107 olive drab Vietnam Era jungle fatigues (which was based on the khaki WWII airborne jumpsuit).

But the Army, Marines, heck, even the Air Force and Navy have spent untold millions of dollars crafting camouflage uniforms for their members. And damn near every penny of that is a waste.

I’ll grant, for the sake of argument, that a handful of service members in the infantry and special operations forces, need a camouflage uniform.

But the vast, vast majority of people in the Army (or the Marines for that matter) could be performing their duties, in garrison, or in combat, in a plain, non-camouflage uniform. Obviously, Fobbits don’t really need camouflage.  Nor, really, do tankers, artillerymen, and most other combat support jobs.

The old “pickle suit” would do just fine for most jobs, and cost less to boot.


Heck, it would be nice to be able to see someone’s rank from more than 3” away.

I’ve kind of had a suspicion that with the great increase in the cost of combat uniforms (which will only go up as new technologies are added, such as embedded blood clotting agents), eventually the Army will adopt a field/combat uniform for Infantry, and a garrison/field uniform for all other uses.

Time will tell. But I can say this, camouflage patterns on uniforms are an extremely marginal issue when it comes to the concealment of troops.

8 thoughts on “Why Do We Even Bother With Camouflage?”

  1. Camouflage is critical. At least in the woodland days, you had a 30 percent chance that when your pen blew out, the black stain would be on the black pattern. With UCP, no chance. I can’t tell you how many people have big ink stains on their left forearm from the pen pocket…. I would be all in favor of OD jungle fatigues, but not the pickle suit. I don’t think the army could handle the jump from looking completely slovenly all at once.
    On a serious note, in my opinion, a good (I.e. not UCP) pattern is worth the expense, but as we constantly go about it wrongly, that expense has been driven up inordinately.

    1. Well, while printing a pattern does add cost, the real driver of uniform expense isn’t the pattern, so much as the cut and fittings of uniforms. Velcro, zippers, drawstrings, doubled patches, and all the other little bits add up. Coupled with the large array of sizes (which drive down efficiencies of scale) and pretty soon, you’re looking at some very pricy clothes.

      I used to have some Pattern 1 OG107 utilities made from cotton sateen. They were crude, to say the least. Patch pockets front and back, square pocket flaps. Not even cuffs on the sleeves. On the other hand, they were cheap. The Army (and Marines) didn’t have to pay a lot for them.

      I think some of the design changes for the ACU make a good deal of sense, such as being compatible with body armor. But I wonder how many features are more “nice to have” rather than “really, it needs this.”

      And how much money will we spend studying alternatives before we realize Multi-cam is perfectly fine?

  2. What about the utility of blue and white camo? Who was the asshat that came up with that? At least the old woodland bdu was marginally effective.

  3. I liked the Woodland pattern BDU. I hated the OG cap, though. The thing always felt like it was going to fall off my head as the thing didn’t fit properly. It wasn’t just my odd shaped head either. The guys in my flight school class had the same problem.

  4. Heck, it would be nice to be able to see someone’s rank from more than 3” away.

    Heck, I’d be ok with this just so I didn’t have to feel like a perv when trying to ascertain a female soldier’s rank. What moron decided “center of the upper chest” is where rank should go?

  5. When a camouflaged uniform draws more attention than it does hiding the soldier you have come back to where you started with a pickle suit and bright easy to see devices, rank insignia and patches in bright colors.
    Woodland pattern was a very good pattern, MARPAT is better.
    I recall my time in the marines where the Old Corps utility uniform of choice was the Herringbone OD and those who had them wore them while the rest of us in OD sateen looked on with envy.
    Your average working day stateside trooper can get by with OD or the old Khaki’s, you could even go back to the woodland pattern for general issue.
    The Grunt in combat in the field needs the hi tech camo.
    One thing for sure, after two or three days in the filed anything a trooper wears will become the color of the surrounding environment as it gets dirty.

  6. The picture of the pickle suit brought back memories. The Drill Sergeants still had them and us basic trainees had the same uniform but with OD Tape, Black embroidery name tags/US Army. Agree with much of the arguments on this thread but apparently somebody doesn’t examine practicality on its own merit, or heaven forbid fiscal wisdom and MUST have everyone look the same in formation. One of my BIG gripes is that in the US Army of today every NCO from “Buck” Sergeant up to Master Sergeant is generically referred to as “Sergeant.” The Marines do great credit to one by addressing specifically a Marine by their true rank…..hell the Air Force does it unless that changed. Used to do “purple ops” with a Marine unit and I felt all giggly listening to the Marines at Staff Sergeant and below address me as Sergeant First Class. They were so respectful that even at the beginning of my association with them advised them that Army regs only required the “Sergeant” address I was politely told that they (they Marines) would address me their way. I may have messed up in June of ’68.

  7. Ever have to maintain the OG107s?

    Ever break starch in them while at Ft Stewart or FT Benning in August?

    Not fun.

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