Over the weekend, I got a look at a draft ALARACT (All Army Action) message for the transition to the Operational Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniform Ensemble. I’m not going to publish the actual document because it’s not yet released, but rather will share some of the information contained in the draft. The very fact that there is a draft G1/G4 message floating around tells me that they are getting close to releasing it. However, as you’ll see later in the story, the timeline unfortunately continues to slip to the right from initial estimates last year.
This first piece of information is very important. The Army has gotten hip to the fact that there could be confusion if OCP denotes two different patterns so they have gone back to referring to MultiCam as Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern (OEF-CP), at least as far as AR 670-1 goes. Scorpion W2 will continue to be referred to as OCP. Either way, it remains sticky. The draft ALARACT informs that FRACUs as well as other OCIE such as MOLLE and Gen III ECWCS will continue to be issued in OEF-CP until supplies are exhausted, which will be quite awhile. According to acquisition professionals, the planned phase-in of TA-50 in OCP is on the order of a decade. Bottom line on this? Expect confusion to reign. Based on the most recent transition time lines I’ve seen; UCP, OEF-CP and OCP will all be worn simultaneously for several years to come.
Army Chief of Staff GEN Raymond Odierno acknowledged this protracted transitional period during a recent virtual town hall meeting at Fort Hood where he explained, “You’ll start to see new gear available that’ll match the new design over time. The issued items will be brought in over a period of time.”
One of the main reasons the Army has chosen to split the two OCP variants up is for uniformity’s sake. There is definite concern that Soldiers will mix and match OEF-CP and OCP uniform components if they are referred to by the same name and the draft ALARACT declares the crossing of the streams as forbidden. You’ll be able to wear OEF-CP or OCP but you won’t mix and match ensemble components between the two.
The OCP ACU ensemble (remember, the ACU won’t change names, just patterns and a few features) consists of:
Belt, Rigger (Coyote)
Socks, Tan, Green or Black, Cushion Sole
Boots, Combat, Coyote Leather
Until sufficient stocks exist of the Coyote Undershirt and Rigger Belt, you’ll be able to wear the old Tan Undershirt and Rigger Belt from the UCP ACU with the OEF-CP/OCP (FR)ACU. However, the items must be of the same color and the new Coyote versions may not be worn with the old UCP ACU so a bit of planning ahead is required if you want to still wear the UCP ACU up until the wear out date. The same goes for the boots. Legacy Tan boots are forward compatible but the Coyote models are not backward compatible to UCP.
(L-R UCP, OEF-CP and OCP. These images are not colored corrected.)
According to the draft ALARACT as it stands right now, you’ll be able to wear any of the three patterned uniforms during the transition period. That’s right boys and girls, it appears the Army plans to allow you to wear your RFI issued FRACUs in OEF-CP aka MultiCam. However, commanders may designate one uniform or another for specific functions. Additionally, you can’t mix and match components (except as already noted) and any sew on badges or insignia must match the uniform they are worn on. And don’t forget, your hat must also match the uniform it is worn with.
The Army realizes there will be times when you’ll end up mixing patterns such as in the case of OCIE items like rain suits and cold weather clothing. In this case, you’ll be required to use a full, matching set of the accessory garment. This is also going to be an issue with other TA-50 such as helmet covers, armor vests and MOLLE. Just make sure all of the accessories match one another and the basic uniform ensemble matches itself. For example, you may be wearing a OEF-CP FRACU along with a UCP FREE overgarment. Likewise, all of your MOLLE components should be the same pattern. This is much of a challenge for the CIF as it is for you.
About a year ago, I posted an article about the mixing and matching of patterns during the UCP transition and shared this photo of then CSA Pete Schoomaker. It’s going to happen again. Yes, some leaders will freak out but not much can be done about it until the transition is complete. Like it or not, OCP remains OCP no matter what they decide to call it.
The draft ALARACT specifies the following mandatory wear out / possession dates:
Wear out date for UCP ACU: 30 SEP 2019
Possession date for OCP ACU: 1 OCT 2019
Notice there is no wear out date for OEF-CP clothing. That’s because it is TA-50 and will be replaced when it’s replaced.
The draft ALARACT also contains dates when the new ensemble will be available to different groups within the Army:
Army Military Clothing Sales Stores – 4QFY15
Clothing Initial Issue Points for Initial Entry Soldiers – 2QFY16
Drill Sergeants and AIT Platoon Sergeants (Supplemental Issue) – 15 Feb 2016 specifically
ARNG, USAR and Senior ROTC through the Clothing Central Distribution Facility – 4QFY16
Remember, this is a draft document so most anything in it is subject to change up until it’s actually published. However, I expect most everything to remain the same with perhaps some additional wear guidance regarding the OEF-CP uniforms. Once again, I can’t emphasize enough that this is draft guidance and won’t be implemented until the Army publishes it and an as of yet undetermined time.
On a final note, the draft ALARACT does not mention bookend patterns nor the OCIE overdye plan and I have no additional new information on either of those.