Posted : Sunday Aug 22, 2010
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — A new Army Combat Uniform — boasting nearly a dozen improvements — was unveiled here Aug. 10, and received the quick approval of roughly 3,600 Iowa National Guard soldiers headed to the ’Stan.
The attention-getting ACUs were one of a dozen changes made to improve the safety, comfort and functionality of the Army combat uniform and combat load. Each soldier received 22 new or improved items, all of which were fielded in the Army’s new MultiCam pattern — what the Army calls OCP, which stands for Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern.
The upgrades, driven largely by soldier input, went from idea to issue in only nine months — a turnaround the Army’s top NCO characterized as “pretty phenomenal.”
“The OCP allows soldiers to get far closer to the enemy before being observed, and I believe [the uniform is] safer,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said. “And we’ve never issued equipment faster than we are now.”
The new gear will be issued to the two brigade combat teams deploying to Afghanistan each month. In addition, a phased approach for troops with at least 120 days left in theater will begin in December and is expected to last no more than eight months.
While the MultiCam pattern is exclusive to Afghanistan, all improvements will also be implemented in the Universal Camouflage Pattern ACUs, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, Program Executive Office Soldier.
When soldiers will see the new ACUs depends on a few factors. Topping the list is the need to first issue the existing stock to ensure the Army doesn’t get stuck with that bill. But Fuller said the transition should begin “within a matter of months.”
Soldiers can expect a uniform that breathes and wears better, yet provides better flame resistance, Fuller said. The collars are better, the crotches are stronger and there is less Velcro.
The new and improved ACUs include the following upgrades:
• The MultiCam pattern. This is the result of in-depth analysis that started with 57 camouflage patterns. It provided the best concealment in a variety of tests in Afghanistan, and is especially proficient in the rugged terrain near the Pakistani border, service officials said.
• A better collar. Less Velcro and a new design keep it from crumpling up for a more comfortable wear.
• Infrared patches. These are sewn onto a hideaway tab instead of outside the pockets for greater durability. This is to ensure the patches don’t get destroyed through regular wear and tear.
• Buttons on cargo pockets: It’s back to buttons, as Velcro proved too problematic for soldiers trying to carry myriad gear.
• Extended pockets. The Army has added a special “extender button” to the trouser cargo pockets for easier access and expanded carrying capability.
• Stronger crotches. The crotch has been reinforced to reduce the rips that had become all too common.
• Fire resistant. The uniform provides four seconds of flame resistance — time to evade or egress without suffering third-degree burns. The protection also will keep second-degree burns to less than 30 percent. Such protection almost ensures a 100 percent recovery, according to studies by the burn center in San Antonio.
• Insect resistant. The days of treating your own uniforms are over as the preshrunk uniforms will have permethrine treatments before they are issued. The treatments will last for 50 washings, which should more than cover the 120 days this uniform is designed to last.
Four other “Tier 2” MultiCam items are expected to make their way to the troops by February, officials said. They are the aircrew combat uniform, aircrew coveralls, aviation life support gear and fire-resistant environmental ensemble.