Wardrobe Changes

Uniforms change—sometimes with good reason and other times with no apparent impetus other than change for the sake of change.

The camouflage utility uniform has morphed over the years and has gone through a number of iterations in the past decade. The Army debuted it its digital cammo pattern first, followed by the Marine Corps and the Air Force. We are sure very smart people determined a digitized pattern trumped the Woodland style any day.

Whether the same smart people determined each service needed its own designer togs is unclear. You can tell a member’s service by the blurriness of his tunic. Our guess is service chiefs, as well as manufacturers, like service design rivalry.

But all is not well on U.S. Army runways. The senior service is wrestling with pattern challenges. The Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) performed poorly in the “Photosimulation Camouflage Detection Test,” conducted by U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research. Four patterns blew the UCP off the battlefield in similar tests: Marine Corps desert digital, MultiCam, Desert Brush and a Syrian military pattern. In 2004, the Army rejected other patterns at a reported cost of $5 billion. It is unclear what savings would have been garnered using another style.

As reported by Army Times, the Army plans to “to evaluate more than 50 camouflage pattern and equipment combinations.” There has been talk the UCP may become a garrison uniform and other patterns would be used in combat. (Our guess is this would make some manufacturer very happy. Is he in Murtha’s district?)

But the Navy blows the competition out of the water. Yes, the U.S. Navy. If you caught coverage of the USS New York’s return to its name sake, you may have glimpsed the new Navy Blue. It’s ugly. It’s awkward, and it begs the question, “Why?”

The new Navy Working Uniform (NWU) is a digitized, mottled blue camouflage utility. It has been tested, approved and is being phased in by geographic region. The Navy is scheduled to complete its changeover by Oct. 2010. Why does the Navy need a cammo pattern? Well, officials admit it doesn’t, but the pattern hides wear they say (and we think dirt, grease, cigarette burns, coffee mishaps, and other hazards of shipboard life). Since this is a working uniform and not a tactical uniform (we’re unsure why they cannot be the same), sailors will be outfitted with the appropriate tactical uniforms when needed.

The NWU will “replace working utilities, tropical working uniforms, wash khakis, winter working blue, aviation working green, and non-tactical/environmental usage of camouflage utility uniforms.”

Imagine what sailors can jam into these pockets.

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