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A History Of The Battle Dress Uniform

Aug 17, 2007
I signed my first Army contract in 1985, and over that time, one of the things I was most used to was the BDU, or Battle Dress Uniform. This is the uniform with a hunter style camouflage that most can close their eyes and envision when they think of the US Army.

This uniform was adopted in 1981, with a four-color pattern with two green shades, brown and black. It came in two weights, temperate and winter, and saw minor changes in the color, waist tabs and stitching over the years.

There were more specialized uniforms available as well. The DBDU was a desert uniform often called the chocolate chip camouflage. Experience in the Arabian and Sinai deserts led to the creation of the DCU, a much less busy looking desert uniform made famous by operations in Iraq.

While we saw attempts to make the desert uniforms blend in better with the environment, the woodland uniforms never really blended into the background. The Marines were the first to deal with this, and their experiments led to a new digital uniform. The camouflage pattern was made with smaller elements placed by a computer program to decrease repeating patterns and better appear as part of the environment. Pockets were removed and moved to eliminate pockets of little use while wearing body armor and provide replacements in more usable locations. The Army expressed interest, but the Marines were using a proprietary pattern with the USMC logo embedded in the camouflage. The Army started its own program and produced a similar result. The Army pattern was also intended to consolidate uniforms. The new ACU, or Advanced Combat Uniform, is intended to provide good service in woodland, desert and urban environments.

The New ACU pattern is three-color, with green, gray and tan. The transition is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year, and currently it is possible to see weeping sergeants major watching formations of soldiers with a mix of uniforms.

One of the new concepts of the ACU is Velcro. Previously, there was a mix of sewn-on and pin-on insignia of various types. Now there are no choices, some insignia must be pin-on if worn, all else is on Velcro. Velcro insignia is expensive, but it is reasoned that this is balanced against a need for at most two of everything, one to wear and a spare, with everything switched as a new uniform is worn. The uniform comes with a Mandarin collar, allowing for some protection for the neck against chafing while wearing body armor. The elbows and knees are redesigned for easier bending and to hold kneepads. Chest pockets are now at a diagonal angle to ease access while wearing body armor. The left sleeve now has three slots to hold pens and markers for easy access while wearing body armor. This is a big advance, though I still reach for the wrong spot every time.
About the Author
Visit Armyshop 24 - Der guenstige US Army Shop for BDU's and more.
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