The combat uniform is getting several upgrades in the next year, and a new camouflage pattern will roll out starting next summer. (Army)
A view of the new one-button closure for the lower leg pocket. (Army)
The cargo pocket on the leg will no longer have a cord and barrel lock. (Army)
The upper sleeve pocket will include a zipper closure and grow an inch. (Army)
A paratrooper hustles at Fort Bragg, N.C., on July 18. The latest changes to the Army Combat Uniform are based on soldier feedback. (Army)
Say goodbye to a lot of that Velcro on the Army Combat Uniform.
The service is making six changes to the uniform that include stripping Velcro from the sleeve pocket, elbow patches, knee patches and lower leg pocket flap. The service is also considering five additional fixes — all because soldiers asked for it, according to Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, the service’s top enlisted official.
“We have a responsibility to provide soldiers with the best uniform we can with the resources we have available,” Chandler said. “You listen to what soldiers have to say and you try to do something about it. All of their suggestions have been feasible, affordable and reasonable.”
The structural changes to the Army Combat Uniform will appear in the summer of 2015, along with a change in the camouflage pattern.
Chandler cautioned that, despite all the changes, the ACU is not going away.
“It’s not a different uniform,” Chandler said. “It’s a different pattern applied to the existing uniform. The uniform is as it is, but we’re going to make these design changes. The uniform type is the same as it is now. ”
The reduction in Velcro is likely a reason for many soldiers to cheer.
“Velcro has been controversial,” Chandler said. “We had Velcro on the wrists and our war fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan really had some concerns with noise discipline when they were in close proximity to the enemy. So we went to a button.”
The changes have been driven over the past several years by the Army Uniform Board, composed of junior and senior soldiers of both genders and each component, as well as experts. The board considers recommendations, votes and forwards the recommendation to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.
Among the changes the Army Uniform Board is set to consider in early 2015 will be the elimination of the mandarin collar.
Chandler said Congressional scrutiny over uniforms over the past year or so delayed the changes until now.
Chandler likened the changes to alterations made to the ACU in years past, including the strengthening of the crotch and seat, and the replacement of Velcro on the cuffs with button. He wants soldiers to know that their ideas do not fall on deaf ears.
“People actually look at that stuff and say, ‘What can we do?’ ” Chandler said.
The following six changes have been approved by the Army Uniform Board:
1. Upper sleeve pocket (top)
Changes: Remove hook and loop (aka Velcro) closure. Add zipper closure. Because the shoulder pocket’s Velcro has been replaced with a zipper, the friend-or-foe tab can no longer be folded up to be hidden under the pocket flap. As on the Army Combat Shirt, the tab will fold over itself horizontally.
SMA weighs in: “[Soldiers] said we need a zipper. It’s just easier to manipulate.”
2. Upper sleeve pocket (bottom)
Changes: Increase pocket length by 1 inch.
SMA weighs in: The shoulder pocket at present “does not fit all of the patches that the Army has,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler said. “We needed to extend it, and we asked soldiers how they wanted it to work.
3. Elbow patch
Changes: Remove internal elbow pads. Remove hook and loop from elbow patches. Retain double fabric reinforcement at elbow.
SMA weighs in: The uniform was initially designed to hold padded rectangular elbow and shoulder inserts, but as external pads have become more common, the pockets have been deemed obsolete. “Why do we need to have a Velcro opening, which costs a heck of a lot of money, if we don’t use it in the field?” Chandler said.
4. Cargo pocket
Changes: Remove cord-and-barrel lock.
5. Knee patch.
Changes: Remove internal knee pads. Remove hook and loop from knee patches. Retain double fabric reinforcement at knee.
6. Lower leg pocket flap
Changes: Remove hook-and-loop closure. Add one button closure.
The following five changes are still pending approval by the Uniform Board:
7. Mandarin collar
Changes: Remove hook-and-loop closure. Remove mandarin collar flap extension. Replace with fold-down collar design.
SMA weighs in: The use of the Army Combat Shirt eliminates the need for a collar that covers the neck, Chandler said. What’s more, soldiers in high-risk jobs — such as fuelers and aviators — are given uniforms that offer the added protection unnecessary for most troops.
8. Infrared (IR) Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Tabs
Change: Remove IR IFF tab from left sleeve pocket, but retain it on the right sleeve pocket.
9. Trouser waistband
Change: Remove drawstring because it often hangs out, looking unprofessional.
10. Sleeve pen pocket.
Change: Reduce pen pocket channels from three to two.
11. Lower leg pockets
Change: Remove lower leg pockets.