The Universal Camouflage Pattern, as of mid-2008, replaced the standard Army uniforms designed for desert wear and forest wear. Actually, it did a little more than that. You see, as recently as five years ago, the American armed services all wore the same type of utility uniforms. For example, Airmen, Marines, Soldiers and Navy personnel assigned to land duties (e.g., Navy SEALs) all wore the forest uniforms when assigned to wooded or tropical areas.
However, all the services now have their own distinct utility uniforms. The Army has its ACUs,
the Marines have desert and forest uniforms, the Air Force has a pixelated uniform which looks surprisingly Army-like, and the Navy even ditched its classic khaki uniform for a Navy blue pixelated monstrosity which helps Sailors blend into...a ship...or something.
The design of the ACU is great--the velcro pockets eliminate the need to spend money getting multiple uniforms tailored every time you go to a different duty station. Not to mention they make promotions (and demotions) that much easier. The zipper doesn't interfere with the wear of the body armor like the old buttons did, and the pockets on the sleeves work great with the body armor as well. Not to mention, most troops like the fact that the new uniform doesn't have to be inexplicably ironed and starched like the old ones did, nor do the boots need to be shined. After all, we have better things to do than ironing and polishing, since we've been at war longer than the World War Two generation.
Anyway, the one gripe that a lot of Soldiers have had with the new uniform is the pattern--what is this uniform designed to blend into? In desert environments, the uniform is okay, but it
certainly doesn't blend in to foliage well at all--and there's actually a good deal of it in Afghanistan, as anyone who's ever exchanged gunfire with the Taliban over a poppy field can tell you. (This isn't
idle griping either--this issue is currently being brought up in Congress and is expected to go before the President)
I went back and did a little research. It seems the Army held a competition between a number of different uniform types and rated their effectiveness in a number of different environments.
And then they proceeded to pick the worst one, according to this document from US Army Research and Development Command. A number of competitors were chosen, with the "urban track pattern" scoring the lowest among four competitors. Nevertheless, this was the pattern was modified and turned into the UCP which adorns Soldiers uniforms today.
So will we be getting new uniforms shortly? Well, maybe. The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat
Congressional intervention just might finally kill the UCP altogether.
So what would be next? If the experience of some special forces units and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team is any indication, a pattern known as Multicam might be a viable replacement.
Regardless of what pattern the Army picks, I think it's safe to say we can all say goodbye to "foliage" green. Or grey. Or whatever color that is...