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RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — Second Infantry Division soldiers have traded jungle green for desert tan as they prepare to deploy to Iraq. About 80 percent of the soldiers from 2nd ID’s Iraq-bound 2nd Brigade Combat Team now train in tan-colored desert camouflage uniforms (DCUs).

The new uniforms replace green-and-black camouflage battle dress uniforms (BDUs) that U.S. soldiers wear in South Korea, officials said. Citing security reasons, officials declined to disclose the exact number of soldiers in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team but said the number of uniforms involved in the change is in the thousands.

The goal is for each soldier headed to Iraq to have four sets of DCUs by the time the unit deploys, officials said.

Second Brigade logistics officer Maj. Edward Taylor, who is managing the uniform change, said DCUs make soldiers harder to spot in the desert and help keep them cool.

“South Korea is a very dark environment with lots of thick forest and green (rural areas) and dark urban areas. Iraq is a much lighter, sandier environment,” he said.

The DCUs are made of the same material as BDUs but their lighter color will make them cooler in the desert, he said. Generally, lighter colors absorb less and reflect more heat.

“Right now, because of monsoon season, it is hard to gauge how much difference the new uniforms will make,” Taylor said. “In Kuwait, the average temperature is 118 and approaching 120. In Iraq at certain FOBs (forward operating bases), it is even hotter. If someone wore their BDUs in that heat and sunlight you would really be able to feel the difference.”

Iraq-bound soldiers will retain their BDUs for use at future duty stations when they return from the desert, said Taylor, who already has received his own DCUs.

Wearing the new uniform feels different, he said.

“You feel like you are getting ready to go to the desert. It helps get you into the mindset of leaving South Korea and going to the Middle East. After you have worn this for a while the BDU looks really dark. Almost like the uniform of another country,” he said.

Getting the brigade into DCUs has not been simple, Taylor said. After the brigade learned of the Iraq mission, officials generated a list of all of the soldiers deploying that included all of their uniform and boot sizes and the insignia required, he said.

Certain soldiers have special uniform requirements, Taylor said, such as crews of M1A1 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, who wear flame-resistant jump suits. “Their old green suits are being replaced with tan suits,” he said.

After the uniforms started arriving, he said, the brigade had to arrange for the correct patches to be sewn on.

“That was a contract with AAFES,” the Army and Air Force Exchange Services, Taylor said. “Units were given days to drop off their suits with their patches in a zip-lock bag.”

The uniform changing process has seen some hiccups; certain sizes for various clothing items are hard to come by. Some soldiers might have most elements of their DCUs but still wear BDUs because one piece of the uniform, such as a hat, has yet to arrive, Taylor said.

A problem with ordering means no tan helmet covers have arrived. However, 2nd Brigade has allowed soldiers to wear their DCUs with green helmets until the tan covers arrive, Taylor said.

“Initially the plan was to get guys in DCUs as soon as possible so the guys going to the desert would be marked,” he said. “Now the goal is that by Aug. 1, everybody will be in DCUs with three extra pairs and all the sewing complete.”

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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