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Blast From The Past: Camo Rumors – Some Observations

I was doing some research the other day and ran across this article we had published in the summer of 2009. It was written before the adoption of OEF-P Camouflage Pattern, before Phase IV of theCamouflage Improvement Effort and before OCP.  Looking at it in hindsight is kind of fun as some things we had originally said turned out to be untrue. For example, at the time, there was license for the use of MultiCam, but it was paid by the yard.  It’s really still that way today, but it just wasn’t as visible at the time.

Ever since Congress told the Army that the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) used on the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) wasn’t cutting it in Afghanistan, rumors and just plain old bad info has been swirling about the internet, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the subject.

Urban Legend 1 – MultiCam Uber Alles. Despite internet hype and the military version of an urban legend, MultiCam is not replacing UCP in 2011 or 2012. As best I can tell, this rumor came about because the Future Force Warrior program was supposed to be fielded in, you guessed it, 2011. It so happens that all of the photos of guys suited up in the FFW garb were swathed in MultiCam goodness. For some odd reason, folks couldn’t divorce the concept of FFW from Multicam. Hence, the urban legend. Naturally, this new round of Congressionally driven controversy has only fanned the flames of this untruth. Think about it. The Army just spent a gazillion dollars changing everything to UCP. In fact, fielding isn’t even complete. So ask yourself this question. Why would the Army spend a “gazillion” dollars on a new camo pattern and turn right around a field a new one mid-stream? The answer? It wouldn’t. They want to buy FCS, not new uniforms.

Urban Legend 2 – UCP is going away completely. It isn’t. The Congressional “suggestion” is only for forces in Afghanistan, not the whole shebang.

Urban Legend 3 – The Marine Corps offered MARPAT to the Army and they turned it down. Total Fantasy. Here is a truth. These patterns are about branding. When you see MARPAT, you think “Marine”. When you see UCP you think “Soldier”. MARPAT was developed for the Marine Corps. General Jones, former Commandant of the Marine Corps wanted a uniform that would let his enemies know when Marines were in town. He got one.

desert brush variant 3

I feel for the Army. What a big poop sandwich. “Hey Army, UCP stinks, issue something else. But use the money we already gave you for OTHER stuff.” You can’t just change out uniforms. You have to replace all of the Soldier’s other kit as well, or the contrast will just highlight the guy. So the Army is going to have to compute this huge cost for one theater. That was the point of UCP in the first place. One camo…universal. No more issuing two different patterns to guys…economize.

I feel even worse for the poor action officer at PEO-Soldier who has to develop the decision brief on this one. For example:
COA 1 – Do nothing…Tell Congress “Nuts”, I mean after all, UCP does work in some parts of Afghanistan.
COA 2 – Do Nothing…Beg Congress for cash
COA 3 – Stall…conduct study (Attn PEO-Soldier, I am available for contract to conduct said study)
COA 4 – Issue Woodland or Three-Color Desert
COA 5 – Adopt all new pattern – See pic above

Option 5? That is the fantasy option. Or is it? There are select US forces rocking MultiCam all over the place. Oddly enough, so are Snipers. Aside from that, the Army spent a great deal of time and effort developing and testing several patterns any of which could be dusted off including the one in the photo.

However, I am voting for some combo of one or more of the first three with COA 4 as the ultimate outcome. There is already precedence with the Army’s G1 permitting USASOC forces to wear Woodland camo. Plus, there are stock of the older patterns that can be drawn from to get this thing rolling.

Do we love MultiCam at Soldier Systems Daily? You’re damned right we do. Will it be adopted for use in Afghanistan? Who knows at this point, but it sure will be interesting watching whatever ultimately happens.

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28 Responses to “Blast From The Past: Camo Rumors – Some Observations”

  1. JBar says:

    My favorite subject.

    • Steven S says:

      Mine as well, but with much disappointment. Our Army seems to be too incompetent to do anything right in regards to camouflage. Also, they seem to like wasting money on research studies that they ultimately do not use.

  2. Wider says:

    For me as a foreigner – it´s amazing to see how such a great organization as US Army can, despite its development and research institutions and programs and field testing, issue such a crap as UCP. Some heads should be rolling for incompetence. They even stopped to bother with camouflage in Ranger School (no more face camo as it´s pointless anymore when the rest of you sticks out), good I have been there during good old BDU era. I personally like US4CES transitional, too bad it got ditched again.

  3. Bill says:

    I’m sorry, but as a non-.mil outsider, is this camo quandary as big as a cluster as it seems? You have camo wars, we in LE have body cam battles.

  4. gavin says:

    The only consolation for the Army is the fact that the Navy and Air Force have also wasted time and money on lousy patterns.

    • Explosive Hazard says:

      I suppose that’s a consolation in some sense but certainly not for the tax payer. However, the Navy did develop 2 decent patterns, AOR 1 and 2. At this point I think the Army should adopt both of those for bookends for desert and tropical environments. I wish the Army would have just ponied up and paid Crye for the MC, MC tropical and MC Airid but that would have been easy and probably less expensive.

  5. Chuck says:

    SSD,

    Excluding the actual fielding of the equipment pattern the Army ultimately chose, what do you think the entire camouflage improvement effort cost tax payers?

    • MED says:

      It was reported at least $5 Billion

      • SSD says:

        That fielding of gear. I don’t think we’ll ever really know the true developmental costs as the government isn’t very good at it. For instance, a commercial entity will record how many man hours went into a project and what that cost, but the government doesn’t do that, and considers those hours free. The camo wars have also cost industry money, but we’ll never get visibility on that either.

  6. Widey says:

    Should have gone with US4CES transitional…

  7. CWG says:

    Government at its finest. Billions spent recreating a problem that was solved in the 80’s/90’s.

  8. Will says:

    The disgusting thing about all of this is the Army didn’t develop anything new after all their studies, they simply went with a pattern that was available to them even before Multicam became a thing. ( The current Army pattern was a precursor to Multicam.) So, the Army spent billions, and probably cost some soldiers their lives to issue a clearly inferior pattern, and then spent more to replace it with something they could have used from the very beginning.

    If anyone still doesn’t think the Government exists to take taxpayer money, and give it to their friends who lobby congress, then you are a fool.

  9. John says:

    The pattern in that photo (All Over Desert Brush) actually outperformed MultiCam in two of the three environments. It was number one for desert, number two for urban, but came in four places below MultiCam for Woodland. With some more tweaking it could have outperformed MultiCam across the board.

    https://octactical.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/desertbrush.jpg

  10. Dubs checkem says:

    That picture alone was worth the read. I bet that guy looks normal in most other circumstances but that pic is not flattering. Already being sent around by my buddies with the caption “me rn”

  11. TMedina says:

    I have no sympathy for the Army. Because at some point, a series of people approved the fielding of UCP. Even with other camo options available, a series of people approved UCP. Why? At what point did the development and procurement process fail so utterly, so completely as to disregard operational requirements of the Soldier in favor of what seems tantamount to inbred bureaucracy with little or no purpose except to feed itself? And perhaps promote people who never actually have to wear what they approve in the field.

  12. 32sbct says:

    Overall I think this story had a happy ending. The new OCP uniforms are fine. There is no single uniform or pattern that everyone will like. The multi cam FRACU is still the standard issue for deploying Soldiers and will be for sometime. For as messed up as the overall process was, the rollout of the new uniform went very smoothly. If you wanted one, they were not hard to find after July 1 2015. I’m still interested in the “bookend” patterns for jungle and desert. Still no word on those.

    • bloke_from_ohio says:

      I believe most arguments about the supposed inferiority of the scorpion based “new OCP” hyperbolic vs “real multicam” based old OCP. Given the minimal differences and the subjectivity of camouflage trails in general, I just don’t see it. Maybe there is a difference in detectability, but I doubt it rises above the noise. Arguments about the procurement and legal cluster that drove the Big Army to adopt the new OCP instead of real multicam are worth having though.

      For all practical purposes, the new OCP is just about as good as old OCP (multicam). What we have now is leaps and bounds better than UCP, ABU, or the blue NWU pattern. The differences between “new OCP” and “old OCP” are slight. They are slight enough that the Army, an institution that thrives on finding silly things to be pedantic about, has decided to officially use the two patterns interchangeably.

      On the whole, it does not really matter one way or the other for the vast majority of users. What we have now is good and better than what we had. Now if can just get everybody into the same pattern we will be set! Bits and pieces of the USAF already wear OCP. Your call Navy and Marines.

  13. Harry says:

    I’m a dinosaur so, I still think OD green is the way to go. With sweat, dirt, & sun fading it tends to match most operating areas. I can’t understand why you would opt for an all black PT uniform either but, that’s just me.
    I still don’t get what made the ACU better than the lightweight BDUs it replaced. Some things just make me scratch my head, and think WTF?

  14. Joe says:

    I assume the bookend camo patterns for Woodland/Desert aren’t going to be a thing.

    OCP should be good enough that the Army doesn’t feel the need to bother.

    • 32sbct says:

      I agree, I think OCP will work pretty well in a desert environment. I have not had the opportunity to see OCP in a jungle environment, but I doubt it will be optimal. An easy solution would be to use the OCP pattern and change the colors to what was used on the Viet Nam era green dominant ERDL uniform…problem solved.

      • SSD says:

        Interestingly enough, the areas in jungle environments where camouflage seems to matter most are the open areas where there is little to no canopy and the sun shines. In these areas, MultiCam seems to work well. By extension, OCP should as well

        • Joe says:

          Didn’t SSD report that new OCP performed slightly worse overall than MC, but slightly better in Woodland?

          I certainly agree that under canopy any reasonably effective camouflage should function.

          Heck, I even found UCP to work under canopy in Spring, even though it was a white sheet in direct sunlight.

          Reflectivity should be the next area of focus.

          Regardless of pattern the wrong lighting on the wrong material will make the uniform stand out from the background.

  15. Buckaroomedic says:

    I like the new Scorpion uniform. Soldiers are starting to look like soldiers again. Now; if we could just get rid of half the pockets on the current uniform and get a few good NCO’s to instruct Joe on the Wear and Appearance of the uniform we will be GTG.