Army tests new camouflage
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Army’s black berets might be getting a new look.
Researchers at the U.S. Army’s Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., are testing several camouflage patterns — including a specific design for urban terrain — that possibly could become the new standard for soldiers. This is the same laboratory that researched and designed the Marines’ digital-patterned uniform distinct to the Corps.
Army officials are considering patterns of “all over brush,” “shadow line” and “track” in combinations of four colors. The goal: Help conceal soldiers better than the current woodland pattern, fielded in 1981.
“Woodland camouflage is still based on the European threat of the Cold War,” said Anabela Dugas, textile technologist at the Soldier Systems Center. “There are new threats today, and there’s always room for improvement. Until we do an evaluation, we don’t know if there’s a better alternative.”
Researchers employed the same technology used to design the Marine Pattern uniform, but with a different development process. The same computer software assisted in the new pattern designs and color placement. With the Marine effort, researchers modified patterns already available, both from foreign militaries and commercially. The Army effort, though, started from scratch.
The “all over brush” design has swirls in a range of colors and shapes, looking like the stroke of a paintbrush. “Shadow lines” features horizontal lines; the “track” patterns have vertical lines. Each design was printed in a nylon-cotton blend of fabric and an ink jet printer and sewn together for helmet covers and battle dress uniform shirts and trousers.
“Initial evaluations for visual performance have been conducted at National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., for desert and at … Fort Benning, Ga., for woodland and urban,” Dugas said. “A second phase of evaluations, including nighttime, will be conducted at NTC and at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., in March and April.”
Questionnaires will ask soldiers from various jobs to comment on what works — and what doesn’t. The soldiers will note their observations of the uniforms at varying distances and backgrounds. That information will be incorporated into the final design, which could be selected for recommendation by April.
But initial reactions were mixed.
“I like the uniform as it is now,” said Army Sgt. Kristy Ligon, stationed on Okinawa. “But a change would be all right.”
However, she said she likes the Marine Pattern uniform for both its distinct styling and improved concealing capability.
“They probably work better in a woodland environment opposed to the type we’re wearing,” she said. “I like the pockets on the sleeve.
“A new uniform would help with the Army’s change to distinguish us from everybody else. The beret helps, but in a crowd, it’s tough to see who’s Army and who’s Air Force.”
Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Hood isn’t sold on the idea of a new, distinctly Army, uniform. Stationed on Okinawa, he’s also seen the new Marine uniform and said, “It’s ugly.”