Members of the Legion — the US Army’s 5th Special Forces Group — threw it back to the group’s Vietnam War days with an unusual and outrageously cool choice of uniform during a training exercise in Kentucky, back in mid-August.

Instead of donning the customary OCP-patterned uniforms, popular with US Special Operations Command, the Legion’s Green Berets were photographed wearing the Vietnam-era tiger stripe pattern — somewhat unused and mostly forgotten by the US military for decades.

According to the Pentagon, these Green Berets with 5th SFG (known as Legionnaires) were training with the “Widowmakers” — soldiers of the Army’s 75th Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Both the 75th Cav as well as 5th SFG are based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where the training exercise took place.

Green Berets instruct Soldiers of C Troop, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team on vehicle clearing procedures during a joint exercise on Fort Campbell (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Iman Broady-Chin)
Green Berets instruct Soldiers of C Troop, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team on vehicle clearing procedures during a joint exercise on Fort Campbell (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Iman Broady-Chin)

By the end of the exercise, Legionnaires and Widowmakers accumulated over two weeks of training in mission planning, casualty care and battlefield trauma medicine, as well as direct action operations. From the images posted online, it’s unclear whether the tiger striped Legionnaires were acting in an OPFOR role, simulating enemy forces, or were on a blue team.

Images taken by the 5th SFG’s public affairs team show Legionnaires in jungle tiger stripe uniforms, replete with full-color patches on their shoulders, including the Special Forces and Ranger tabs, as well as the Special Forces arrowhead. For the most part, these tabs are generally worn in subdued colors on standard field uniforms.

A Green Beret holds an IV bag for a simulated casualty during a joint exercise on Fort Campbell. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Iman Broady-Chin)
A Green Beret holds an IV bag for a simulated casualty during a joint exercise on Fort Campbell. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Iman Broady-Chin)

Tiger stripe’s roots are mildly ambiguous, but the US military’s unofficial adoption of the pattern came about during the Vietnam War, where South Vietnamese forces were already wearing uniforms emblazoned with the unique camouflage. Before long, American special operations units that were deployed in-country to advise friendly forces began wearing the pattern alongside their South Vietnamese counterparts in order to blend in more effectively with their foreign partners.

If John Wayne wore them in the iconic
If John Wayne wore them in the iconic "The Green Berets" movie, then they must be legit. (Photo YouTube screen capture from MovieClips Classic Trailers)

By the time conventional American units made their way over to Vietnam, tiger stripe had already become a hallmark of high speed/low drag units. Chances were that if you spotted a guy overseas carrying a tricked out rifle wearing tiger stripe cammies during the war, he belonged to one of the US military’s various special operations groups including the SEALs, MACV-SOG, Force Recon, and Special Forces.

At the end of the war, American special operations largely moved on from tiger stripe, returning to a more traditional woodland pattern. While 5th SFG hails from those Vietnam days, and many of its ’60s and ’70s-era Legionnaires likely wore the pattern in-theater, chances are that Special Forces aren’t bringing back this camo into widespread usage... though it’s still incredibly cool to see when mixed in with modern warfighting hardware.