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Is The Army Bi-Polar?

Perspectives  September 26 2012
 — By CJ Grisham
Is The Army Bi-Polar?

In the summer of 2008, Sergeant Major of the Army, Kenneth O. Preston, announced at the Association of the United States Army convention that we were transitioning to a new service uniform – also known as the Class A and B uniforms. At the time, the Army had no less than three different dress uniforms each with varying regulations on the wear and appearance of awards and accouterments.

The old green uniform vs. the new blue one.

For my part, I was happy with the changes. There were some minor issues I had with it, but overall I was all in for ditching the ugly green uniform for the more professional and historical-based ASU. So, it was a little surprising to see the following in my mail box after just four years of wearing a uniform that hasn’t even survived to its wearout date yet:

In an effort headed up by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, a survey site has been developed to get feedback from the field about the Army Service Uniform (ASU). This survey is for all Soldiers (Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve) and you must have AKO access to participate.

The ASU survey is part of the Army’s effort to solicit continuous feedback on the equipment it provides to the Soldier. The feedback gathered by the survey will be used to determine possible adjustments or improvements that can be made to the ASU.

The survey was largely about the placement of patches and combat insignia, but also about the button-up shirt worn under the jacket or as part of the Class B uniform.

I personally don’t have any problem with the white shirt, but I can’t stand the gray shirt. The options presented to Soldiers taking the survey include four different shirts – white, gray, tan, and khaki. I’ve always been partial to the old WWII style dress uniform with the tan shirt. I’m also a fan of the Roosevelt jacket.

The Army expended a lot of energy and money researching and creating the uniform as it currently stands. I don’t think we need to keep changing it. We’re losing the historical nature of our uniform by constantly tooling with it. With sequestration upon us, the military is facing a budgetary scalpel. Yet, we are worried about changing our uniform…again.

But, I think there are some changes that won’t incur major costs in the long run. In fact, they would probably save troops money.

* get rid of the Combat Service Identification Badge (CSIB) that is pinned to the pocket and allow troops to sew on the full color combat patch on their right sleeve.
* do away with the regimental crest and transition the CSIB into a smaller, unit-issued badge in its place. This prevents the need for sewing on unit patches on the left sleeve, ruining the uniform.
* bring back the gold service braids used on the old Dress Blues to denote years in service. Those were classy and eye-catching, especially seeing senior NCOs and officers with over 20 years of service.

Other than that, the uniform is just fine the way it is. By removing the CSIB, this allows drill sergeants to retain the historical location of their respective badges.

There is also talk – again – of adopting a new camouflage pattern to replace the much maligned ACU. We went to the ACU to get rid of the need for a Battle Dress Uniform and Desert Combat Uniform. Yet, here we are, ten years later with an ACU and OCP (Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern – yeah, an acronym within an acronym). I loved the BDUs and the ACU. They worked. But, since transitioning to the ACU, we’ve allowed so many other countries to use the BDU and DCU patterns we can never go back to them for fear of fratricide and confusion on the battlefield. So, I say just adopt the two Marine Corps patterns and be done with it (removing the eagle, globe and anchor, of course).

Acronym guide for the layperson:

Class A uniform – dress uniform that includes jacket with all ribbons and accouterments.
Class B uniform – dress uniform without the jacket. May be short or long-sleeved, with or without a tie (long sleeve shirts always require tie)
ASU – Army Service Uniform; basically the Army’s dress uniform
CSIB - Combat Service Identification Badge
ACU - Army Combat Uniform; the grayish-green camouflage uniform worn 99% of the time
BDU - Battle Dress Uniform; the green, black, and brown camouflage pattern used until early 2000′s
DCU - Desert Combat Uniform; the tan, brown, and light green camouflage pattern used in desert environments
OCP – Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern; the current camouflage uniform being worn only in Afghanistan
NCO - Non-commissioned officer; “sergeants”

(5) Readers Comments

  1. Great piece…I have what my Grandfather called an “Ike” jacket that looked like the one above. Great look like Patton had…

  2. Roger that SMG.
    As an old soldier from the era of the Khaki (B) and poplin shirt to the Green and now the ASU, i shake my head. i also went from OD green fatigues (with the gig line) to BDU’s, DCU’s, ACU’s, and just a while back OCP’s. i’m tired. and about to be REtired, but i love the army. Anyway, i second your emotions.
    gulf war, somalia X2, OIF, and OEF veteran,
    SSG kirk grose
    881st ESC
    PS. the old days were RA, now since 06, Nasty guard. Still love the life!!!!!!!!! 2/7, out

  3. I agree with most of your suggestions. I differ in regards to the patches on the ASU. The patches should be handled the same as the Class A. The tabs as well. I don’t care for the white shirt while in B’s. As far as combat uniform; I am all in favor of ditching the terrible ACU (not the brown boats) but I don’t see why we can’t just go with the Multicam pattern from OEF full time. It works and looks good.

    SGT Bradeen
    Current 2/162 INF Oregon NG
    Formally 1/325 AIR 82nd ABN

  4. I always wanted to see a sewn on cloth belt like the old Pinks and Greens on the ASU. Put belt loops on it and it keeps your ceremonial belt from falling down. Dark blue trousers for Pentagon types who wear the ASU everyday. Love the khaki shirt. Would look good with the ASU B (with dark blue trousers). Maybe the white shirt will grow on me in time. My two cents.

  5. I own the gray shirt. More of a grayish blue. Looks military.

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