Esli has a set or two. I used to have a couple. They’re popular with tankers, but only rarely have I seen mech infantry crews wearing them.

Armored vehicles are playgrounds for fire. The armor itself doesn’t burn, but just about everything else inside a track loves to burn. Fuel, ammo, furnishings, cables, rubber seals, grease, hydraulic fluid,  people….

And burns are one of the major causes of injuries and wounds for armored crewmen. And because armor vehicles are often quite messy to work on and around, the traditional uniform for tankers was a set of coveralls.  But cotton coveralls, especially with petroleum products smeared on them, gave little protection against fire.

And so, the Army, in its wisdom, developed the Combat Vehicle Crewman’s Uniform, or CVCU.

The basis of the design was the traditional CWU-27P flight suit. Like the flight suit, it is made of fire resistant Nomex fabric.  But there are quite a few differences.

First, it is substantially thicker than the thin flight suit. That helps minimized tearing.

Second, while a pilot might only wear his flight suit for a few hours, vehicle crews can expect to spend days wearing their suit. For that reason, there’s a flap at the seat of the CVCU to make defecating easier. Not dignified, by any stretch, but easier.

Third, armored vehicles don’t have ejection seats. If a wounded crewman has to be pulled from a vehicle, it’s quite difficult. To make it just a little easier, there’s a velcro flap across the back. Opening the flap reveals a nylon tape that forms a harness under the wearer’s shoulders. The tape makes lifting or dragging the wounded much easier.


In my day, the CVCU was issued in a olive drab color known as OG106.

Today it is issued in the very unattractive UCP pattern.

In addition to the coverall, the CVCU came with some accoutrements such as leather and Nomex gloves, a Nomex cold weather balaclava, and, in the past, a lightweight flexible body armor vest similar to what police wear.

Outside of actual live fire gunnery, CVCUs were unpopular with most of the mech infantry I knew. But personally, I loved them. As a crewmember, anytime we went to the field, I wore them.

You see, CVCU were organizational clothing, issued to the soldier when he was assigned to a crew, and turned back in when he was transferred to another post.

And since they were OCIE, if they were damaged or worn out, or otherwise unserviceable, they could be exchanged at no cost for a new set.

BDUs, on the other hand, had to be replaced at the expense of the soldier.

Now, why would I wear out a perfectly nice $60 set of BDUs in the field, when I could risk $0 by wearing the CVCU?

8 thoughts on “CVCU”

  1. If you can believe it, the UCP ones are even more poorly made than the old ones with every piece of Velcro prone to falling apart after three uses. Not to mention they are thicker and insanely hot inside the tank. My infantry crewmen loved them (primarily because unlike the dismounts, they only had to wear the spall vest), but invariably wore the spall vest outside the CVCU, vice under it. By the way, if you wanted a pic of a tanker stud in nomex, all you had to do was ask instead of putting the one you used on here…

    1. There was a real paucity of pics of the CVCU to choose from. Heck, I don’t even have a pic of me in mine anymore.

      And despite Esli’s generous offer to share a pic of his, I don’t think he intended to show that feature.

  2. In Dennis Showalter’s book on Kursk, he cites a Russian veteran who said, “there exists among tankers a unique, unofficial measure of courage… the number of times you’ve been on fire inside a tank.”

  3. In the M113 Infantry we used to allow crews wear General Mechanics Coveralls. They were a big hit as well…much more comfortable (as a Company XO I had several sets.) However they were NOT OCIE.

    When the BDUs were first issued there was no BDU version of the overalls…and in summer at FT Stewart lightweight overalls were hard to come by. And the mechanics were griping, rightly, about ruining sets of BDUs. I was the S4 of my battalion this time and went to DRMO with my BN Supply Sergeant….where we picked up several bundles of BDUs. These were BDUs which AWOL/Deserted/chaptered soldiiers left behind. We got enough to give each mechanic in our battalion 3 sets.

    It was a stop gap but it worked.

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