Military


Army Combat Uniform (ACU)

On 14 June 2004 -- the 229th birthday of the United States Army -- the Army today officially unveiled its new combat uniform designed with major input by the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Corps and enlisted Soldiers, and tested by Stryker Brigade Soldiers in Iraq since October 2003. Army senior leadership introduced the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) during a 10 a.m. Army Birthday Pentagon courtyard cake-cutting ceremony. Soldiers displayed and also suited-up in the wrinkle-free uniform with a digitized camouflage pattern.

Three different versions of the ACU have been developed, and more than 10,000 uniforms have been produced and battle-tested in the sands of Iraq and at Army training centers. Even more are on American production lines to be issued by April 2005 to Soldiers in deploying units. Current fielding plans call for fielding to the total Army by December 2007, said officials from the Program Executive Office Soldier, known as PEO Soldier.

This isn't a cosmetic redesign of the uniform. It is a functionality change of the uniform that will improve the ability of Soldiers to execute their combat mission. Every change was made for a reason. The bottom pockets on the jacket were removed and placed on the shoulder sleeves so Soldiers can have access to them while wearing body armor. The pockets were also tilted forward so that they are easily accessible. Buttons were replaced with zippers that open from the top and bottom to provide comfort while wearing armor.

There were 18 changes made to the uniform, to include removing the color black and adapting the digital print from the Marine Corps uniform to meet the needs of the Army.

The Army's Natick Laboratory in Natick, Mass., took the original digital pattern to the next level by developing a pattern for world-wide theaters to encompass both the BDU and DCU requirements. Black is no longer useful on the uniform because it is not a color found in woodland areas. The current colors on the ACU are green and sandy brown. The pattern is not a 100-percent solution in every environment, Myhre said, but a good solution across the board.

There has not made a major change to our uniforms since the BDUs were introduced in the early 1980s. This new uniform performs well in multiple environments. Its new pockets and color designs are a result of Soldiers in combat. It's only fitting that the next generation of Army uniforms be designed to meet actual wartime requirements. Patches and tabs are affixed to the uniform with Velcro to give the wearer more flexibility and to save the Soldier money. Soldiers can take the name-tapes and patches off their uniforms before laundering, which will add to the lifecycle of the patches. Also the cost to get patches sewn on will be eliminated, he added.

The ACU will consist of a jacket, trousers, moisture wicking t-shirt and the brown combat boots. It will replace both versions of the BDU and the desert camoflauge uniform. The black beret will be the normal headgear for the ACU, but there is a matching patrol cap to be worn at the commander's discretion.

In addition to the overall pattern and color changes, the ACU changes include:

1. Mandarin collar that can be worn up or down
2. Rank insignia affixed above right chest pocket
3. Velcro for wearing unit patch, skill tabs and recognition devices
4. Zippered front closure
5. Elbow pouch for internal elbow pad inserts
6. Knee pouch for internal knee pad inserts
7. Elastic leg cuff
8. Tilted chest pockets with Velcro closure
9. Three-slot pen pocket on bottom of sleeve
10. Velcro sleeve cuff closure
11. Shoulder pockets with Velcro
12. Forward tilted cargo pockets
13. Integrated blouse bellows for increased upper body mobility
14. Integrated Friend or Foe Identification Square on both left and right shoulder pocket flap
15. Bellowed calf storage pocket on left and right leg
16. Moisture-wicking desert tan t-shirt
17. Patrol Cap with double thick bill and internal pocket
18. Improved hot-weather desert boot or temperate-weather desert boot

At $88 per uniform, about $30 more than the BDU, Soldiers will eventually reap gains in money and time by not having to take uniforms to the cleaners or shine boots.

The life of the ACU began in January 2003. The team looked at a number of uniforms and took the best part of each uniform and combined it into one. They built their first prototype and delivered 25 uniforms to Stryker squads at the National Training Center. After listening to their comments, the team went back to the lab and created prototype two. Twenty-one uniforms were then delivered to Stryker Soldiers at the Joint Training and Readiness Center, Fort Polk, La. Two issues of the third version were given to the Stryker Soldiers deploying to Iraq. Three months ago, Myhre was among a team who visited Iraq to get more feedback from Soldiers.








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