By Bob Reinert
USAG Natick Public Affairs
NATICK, Mass. (June 1, 2015) – If you can’t see it, you can’t attack it.
Since the conflicts of the 18th century, that’s been the thinking behind military camouflage. Today, when it’s applied to their uniforms, it can save Soldiers lives. That fact has driven the Army’s decades-long efforts to improve its camouflage patterns.
The next step toward greater Soldier protection comes July 1, when the Army begins to make the Operational Camouflage Pattern available for the Army Combat Uniform in select Military Clothing Sales Stores. The pattern will replace the current Universal Camouflage Pattern. The UCP has been used for the past decade.
The transition period for the pattern will extend from July 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2019. The entire Army will be in the Operational Camouflage Pattern by Oct. 1, 2019. New Soldiers will receive ACUs with the pattern beginning in January 2016.
The Operational Camouflage Pattern will be made available to the National Guard, Army Reserve and Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps in summer 2016.
Prompted by Soldier feedback about the UCP, the Army in 2010 began providing the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, or OEFCP, to Soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. During this period, the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center also began developing the pattern that was later named the Operational Camouflage Pattern.
The Operational Camouflage Pattern testing and evaluation effort has been described as the most comprehensive ever conducted by the Army. Different camouflage patterns were evaluated for effectiveness in different operating environments with varied terrain, vegetation, seasons, and times of day.
The latest version of the ACU will come in the Operational Camouflage Pattern and will also incorporate changes resulting from Soldier feedback. These include modifications to the collar, pockets, knee and elbow patches, and trouser waistband. Instead of the current sand color, the Operational Camouflage Pattern will be worn with a tan 499 T-shirt and belt, and coyote brown boots.
The introduction of the ACU in Operational Camouflage Pattern is being phased in to reduce the cost to both Soldiers and the U.S. taxpayer. During this four-year period, Soldiers will also be permitted to wear uniforms and equipment in OEFCP.
The phase-in allows Soldiers to use their annual uniform replacement allowance to gradually replace current uniforms as they wear out. It also allows the Army to use existing stocks of uniforms and other camouflage-printed gear, such as backpacks.
The change is viewed as fiscally responsible. The Operational Camouflage Pattern ACU is expected to have a similar cost to the UCP ACU.
“All enlisted Soldiers receive an annual stipend for the purchase of uniforms and accessories,” said Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey. “I myself will wait until I am issued my clothing allowance before purchasing a uniform with the Operational Camouflage Pattern.
“I encourage all Soldiers and leaders to do the same by budgeting for a new uniform, belt, boots and T-shirts as you receive your clothing allowance over the next two to three years.”
During the transition period, Soldiers may mix and match items with either the OEFCP or the Operational Camouflage Pattern. They can also wear OEFCP Flame Resistant ACUs during that time.
“Presenting a professional appearance is very important to Soldiers, but we will not inconvenience or burden our troops,” Dailey said. “We will still be the most lethal fighting force the world has ever known, even if our belts don’t match for the next few years.”