Foliage Green, the primary color of the uniform? It's actually gray.
At the middle of 2004, the Army announced that its soldiers would get a new uniform. No longer would G.I.s have to keep separate outfits for desert or woodland combat. The new, "digital" Army Combat Uniform, or ACU, would be capable of blending into them all.
Making the ACU as invisible as possible required developing an entirely new "digital" camouflage pattern, derived from the Marine Corps' so-called "MARPAT" camo scheme, which was launched in 2001. MARPAT is pixilated—bit-mapped on a computer, and then "printed" directly onto nylon... Unlike the old camo, digital camo suggests shapes and colors without actually being shapes and colors—like visual white noise. While it may serve a hunter well to appear to be part of a tree, a contemporary soldier needs to be on the move, and so his camouflage must help him blend into the "flow of space."
But how much does it help, really? The ACU has now been in service for a while now, and some soldiers are complaining that the "universal" cammos aren't really suited to every environment. Yeah, the outfits do a good job of hiding people in cities, but there's very little noticeable green in the ACU's pattern, they argue. So the things stick out like a sore thumb wherever there's even a bit of vegetation.
"I just came back from a range, where there was dry sandy areas, grassy areas and a wooded area behind it. Many soldiers still had BDUs [Battle Dress Uniforms, the old green outfits] and the rest had ACUs. Throughout the day I couldn't help but notice that no matter what the backgound was, the ACU attracted the eye and stood out quite obvious, whereas the BDU really only stood out in the sandy areas. What was also quite obvious was the fact that I wasn't the only one that noticed it. From the colonel on down, there were rather drastic remarks on the uniforms ineffectiveness. Not so much bitching about durability, velco, etc., just the colors. It was obvious that at some time, some place, this garbage will get soldiers killed."
"I just returned from A-stan where we were on of the last units to be issued DCU's [the old Desert Combat Uniforms]. When the ACU's started showing up there was quite a stink about the "multi environment" claim as it stuck out badly. The SF guys would wear the "target identification cloth" (ACU) inside the wire but when on an operation would wear BDU or DCU depending where they were going. Only the office and supply pogues at Bagram thought the ACU's were the "hip" thing to wear.
Then there's the conspiracy theory. Different uniform designs were tried out, including a "multicam" pattern from Brooklyn's Crye & Associates, before the Army picked its digital camos. Some say Crye's design did a far better job hiding soldiers –– but wasn't picked, regardless.
"During testing the ACU was thrown out during the first round at Natick [Soldier Systems Center]. A Multicam type of uniform had won in the final testing. As was told by Natick labs, all research was set aside... the final "choice" [was made] with absolutely no soldier feedback or testing... There are hundreds of emails and letters daily as to the ineffectiveness of the ACU. However, leadership is turning a blind eye to these very valid complaints. For what reason is unknown. Political I would guess."
It has been over four years since the Army has introduced this nightmare of ACUs to us all. What makes matters worse is that the FY2009 clothing continues to expand equipment production in ACU pattern. Spending millions on the development of weapon systems that get scrapped while ignoring the biggest complaint on soldier equipment in over fifty years is not a sound business model. The Army has essentially thrown money away on concepts like the XM-8 and overly tech-dependant land warrior sysytems while not simply correcting the most basic issue of the soldiers' system-the uniform. I am completely confounded how this has gone on for so long. What's more confounding is that some soldiers actually think the ACU is worth a damn. The entire thing is a catastrophe: velcro-not durable, zipper-not fixable, stitching-weak, pocket scheme-ineffective, pattern-bluish grey, durability-less than 6 months. WTF!!! How much proof do these guys need this costume is a horrific disaster? Pull your heads out of the sand and contact whatever liason you believe might lift a finger to retify this nightmare.
All the fuss is for nothing! ACUs work GREAT... on a gravel road. Outside of that, we might as well wear our new army service uniform (new dress blues) to combat. The ACUs are combat ineffective and as wrong as two boys in bed!!
They ought to re-name these ICU's. I see you's...
I dislike the ACU's camo pattern,but I like the uniform itself.I like its overall design (a bit iffy on the velcro) and how it doesn't need to be ironed.
I think we should just take the MARPAT and get it over with.
So let's hear it: Is the ACU a bust? Or do you think it's working like a charm?
As for me, I think the overall design is good to go, but, like the Marines, they need two sets –– one for woodland, and one for desert. The gray coloration needs to go.