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So long ACU! New Army uniforms on the horizon

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- By this summer, soldiers in Afghanistan should all be wearing the Army’s new Multicam camouflage pattern uniform, but that’s a temporary solution. The Army is preparing to come up with separate new options tailored to the desert, woodlands and somewhere in between.

In 2004, the Army adopted the Army Combat Uniform which features a grey digital camouflage pattern that supposedly works in both desert and woodland environments. But troops complained the camouflage pattern didn’t work well in Afghanistan’s terrain, prompting the Army to adopt a Multicam pattern uniform specifically for Afghanistan.

Production rate for the uniforms and accompanying gear is expected to rise from 7,000 per month now to 10,000 per month in January, said Col. Bill Cole of Program Executive Office Soldier, the Army’s center for advanced equipment.

So far, one battalion task force in Afghanistan and two brigade combat teams set to deploy there have been issued the Multicam uniform, Cole told reporters at a roundtable on Thursday. The rate at which the new uniforms can be fielded depends on the pace of combat operations.

Soldiers will not be issued Multicam uniforms if they are slated to leave Afghanistan soon, said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, head of PEO Soldier.

“If we show up and you have 30 days left – or even 60 days left – and it’s going to take us potentially 60 days for you to have it distributed through your formation to all these remote [bases], and by the time you got it, you’re gone, that doesn’t seem like a very good allocation of resources,” Fuller said.

Ultimately, the Army wants to issue all soldiers a new camouflage pattern that comes in three color patterns: One for desert environments, one for woodland/jungle environments, and one for in-between environments, Cole said. It’s possible the Army could start fielding the new uniforms in 2012.

“We want to start testing in spring and be able to be present the results to senior leadership less than a year after that,” he said.

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