Last Friday, the US Air Force released an article on the fielding of Army OCIE in OCP (MultiCam) for deploying Airmen. Referred to as JET (joint expeditionary tasking) Airmen, more than 180 of them assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Teams and other taskings are wearing the OEF Camouflage Pattern (OCP).
Interestingly, the article refers to the OCP FR ACU as the, “Joint Service Solution Uniform.” This is a first for us. While PEO Soldier regularly speaks of looking for Joint Service Solutions, even they haven’t placed that monicker on OCP lest they derail their ongoing search for a new family of camouflage patterns.
We’ve written about this plan before. Unfortunately, the Air Force still hasn’t gotten their facts right on the difference between the Army’s OCP OCIE and their own, internally developed Airman Battle System – Ground (ABS-G). For example, the article claims, “The uniform gives Airmen unique benefits and features that the Airman Battle System-Ground and Airman Battle Uniform cannot deliver.” Sure, the ABU is such a failure, the Air Force has already changed the design of the coat once and is getting ready to field an entirely new fabric story for the uniform, but the ABS-G is very popular with Combat Airmen. It’s really just the Digital Tigerstripe pattern that is the problem. So, we’ll chalk this claim up to visual camouflage.
The article goes on this same vein, “OCPs have a more advanced camouflage pattern that blends in with the Afghan terrain, making our Airmen safer and more effective on the battlefield,” said Lt. Col. Shawna McGowan, the Air Force future programs branch chief. “The material is also flame resistant, lighter weight than the ABS-G or ABU, and contains a pre-applied bug repellant.”
Not completely true. The fabric used in the ABS-G’s field uniform component is the same as used in the Armyâ€™s A2CU and is lighter and more breathable than that used in the FR ACU. However, it is not quite as durable, nor does it contain permethrin to keep the bugs at bay. However, the ABS-G is a total system that incorporates FR insulation layers. This is something that the Army’s currently fielded solution does not provide. Fielding the Armyâ€™s Gen III ECWCS in lieu of a complete ABS-G developed under the FIRESAFE program puts Airmen at danger of flame threats. The alternative is to issue Fire Resistant Environmental Ensemble (FREE) to each deploying Airmen.
As you can see in the photo above, the Air Force chose to go their own path in regards to insignia and use “spice brown” colored name and service tapes as well as enlisted ranks rather than the Army’s black lettering. Looks good.
Overall, we are pleased with the direction the Air Force is heading. But, a lot of time and money was spent developing a unique Air Force solution for Airmen. Air Force personnel, ask for a MultiCam version of the ABS-G. The Airman Battle Shirt is already available from producer Massif in OCP. There is no reason for the Air Force to abandon the currently issued FR cold and inclement weather clothing developed under ABS-G. Finally, don’t forget to just ask for a new, useful camouflage pattern for both home station and deployed environments. Maybe it should be MultiCam and maybe it should be something else, but regardless, it shouldn’t be the current Digital Tigerstripe.