TYR Tactical

What Did SSD Say When This Whole Army Camo Program Started?

The Way Back Machine takes us to December 13th, 2010 when I published this opinion piece regarding the Army’s upcoming requirement for a new family of camouflage.

I attended the Army Camouflage Improvement Industry Day held last week at what was once called Harry Diamond Labs in Adelphi, Maryland. Before I can comment on any of the information presented at the conference, and there was a lot, I feel it is important that I address the underlying issue at hand; the requirement itself.

Overall, is the requirement valid? In my opinion yes, but to a point. The Army should continually assess technologies to reduce the signature of the American Soldier. My issue is with the implementation. The program’s timeline, which I will discuss in more as the week progresses, ends with a plan of action being presented to Army leadership at the end of FY12. This means a decision won’t be made until then at the earliest, with implementation not taking place until well into FY13. The problem with this? We are at war now.

My biggest issue with this program is that the authors of this latest requirement have failed to learn from the past, and worse yet, the recent past. In fact, by working to field multiple specialized patterns, they are repeating failures from THIS war. Prior to the adoption of UCP, the US Army relied upon Woodland and Desert camouflage patterns. All Soldiers were issued Woodland clothing and equipment regardless of posting. The 3-Color Desert pattern was considered specialty equipment and only issued to select personnel based on operational requirements. Unfortunately, during 1991’s Operation Desert Storm many American troops wore Woodland clothing due to the shortage of desert issue. Ten years later, this same situation was repeated during the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom and what’s worse, once again during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unlike post 9/11 operations, the military had ample time to procure and issue specialized desert clothing and equipment prior to the commencement of hostilities with Iraq, yet they failed to accomplish that task. Consequently, we had troops that wore a combination of desert and woodland clothing while some received no desert issue at all. UCP was envisioned to overcome these issues. One pattern for clothing and equipment so that Soldier’s could deploy at a moment’s notice, anywhere in the world. While the implementation was lacking, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I have some relevant experience here. I spent much of my career in the 72-hour contingency business serving in both the Army and Air Force. Even in a unit that issued all deployable personnel desert equipment, September 13th 2001 found me rounding up DCUs and other field equipment for support troops that were not slated to ever go to war. Their specialties were normally accomplished at home station but the unique nature of the burgeoning War on Terror required them to deploy forward. These technicians literally reported for duty that morning with news that they leaving on a flight that evening for an Intermediate Staging Base in the Middle East. Fortunately, we kept ample supplies of OCIE on hand, but this still held up their processing for deployment. Standing in line for uniforms is the last thing you want to do when you are deploying that same day. Make no mistake, had we not had unit stocks of equipment, these men would have deployed in the wrong uniform. So long as we issue specialized patterns, individuals as well as entire units will risk deploying in the wrong uniform.

The Family of Camo Pattern program will produce exactly the same set of circumstances in future conflicts. Soldiers will fight with the equipment they have rather than the equipment they desire. The perfect piece of kit sitting in a warehouse somewhere has zero effect on the outcome of a battle. And really, what’s worse, is that two or even three patterns won’t be enough to truly provide 90% or better camouflage in the world’s disparate environments. A woodland pattern will still have to be a compromise for all woodland or jungle areas. The same holds true for desert. Based on this current requirement, the Army is asking for generic patterns that will work well in some environments and not so great in others. The chance that a Soldier’s camouflage will work against him actually increases based on this requirement. The more specialized patterns the Army develops, the fewer places the Soldier can use them. At the conference, I kept hearing that this is about performance and not a fashion show, but spending money on a camouflage pattern that won’t work most places sounds like a fashion statement to me.

Which brings me to the next point. What makes this issue even worse is that it seems that no one is taking into account the shrinking defense dollar. Purchasing multiple patterns is not cost effective for the standing Army and associated Reserve and Guard force that our country fields. Consider that the Army issues a garrison uniform (ACU) as well as specialized combat apparel (FRACU and ACS). The Basis of Issue for these garments multiplied by the size of the force calls for a uniforms requirement in excess ten of million. And that is just to start. Factor in sustainment and you can see that we just can’t afford multiple patterns.

While dedicated camouflage patterns are fantastic in the environment they are designed for, they work against the Soldier in other environments. As you can see in this graphic shown at the Industry Day conference, the Army has learned that Soldiers in Afghanistan traverse multiple micro environments during a single mission. If the Army adopts dedicated patterns, Soldiers will potentially be safe as houses in one micro environment, but as their mission progresses, their uniform will do the enemy’s work for him, making them stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

As you may have read in Kit Up!, the Army is not going to include the current Army standard UCP as a baseline in the evaluation phase of the solicitation. Essentially, COL William Cole, PM for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment said that the 2009 camo study showed that UCP was not an effective pattern. Instead, they are going to baseline results against OCP and what is essentially already a DoD Family of Patterns, MARPAT Woodland and Desert and their cousins AOR 1 and 2 which all share similar geometries.

In 2009, the Army chose MultiCam for use as the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern (OCP) based on a rigorous test protocol that will essentially be repeated in this latest search for a Family of Camo Patterns. While testing focused on the Afghanistan theater, candidate patterns were assessed in a variety of micro terrains. In that test, MultiCam proved to be effective 70% or better in EVERY environment it was pitted against. No other pattern reached this mark.

OCP is available now. As a GOTS solution, it has been tested, and is in production. Of all of the multi-terrain or “transitional” patterns available during the last round of testing, it proved to be the most effective. Consequently, the Army adopted it.

In the end, the requirement is there. It is important for industry to put their best foot forward and participate. But, in my opinion, the Soldier is losing out as the can is kicked down the road. Remember, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Let’s field a viable solution now and take our time with the science projects.

-The Editor

38 Responses to “What Did SSD Say When This Whole Army Camo Program Started?”

  1. Abn says:

    If the Army is not making an official announcement with OCP, then it will just be a MILPER/ALARACT, right?

  2. Strike-Hold says:

    Great reminder SSD! And wow – very interesting to read this piece again almost 3 years later. You hit the nail on the head then and there, and how ironic that it only took the Army 3 years to catch up with your uncontestable logic.

    Of course the other “could have been” scenario is that if the Army had fielded “All Over Brush” (or a CADPAT / MARPAT based digital version of it) back in 2005 instead of General Moran’s (?) ‘executive over-ride’ command to field UCP we would have all been spared a whole lot of aggravation about all this camo crap in the first place.

    After all, as “All Over Brush” was the winning pattern from the 2003-2004 “Universal Camouflage for the Future Warrior” R&D program, and the General was so keen for the Army to have a digital pattern too, wouldn’t that have been a far more sensible path to take? It might not have been the BEST camo pattern possible, but it certainly would have been better than UCP – and there would at least have been some defensable logic in the decision-making process as well.

    What do you think?

  3. KiNEtIX says:

    Camo is such a frustrating issue, mainly because it seems like no one wants to think logically about it. All if the money and time spent winding up industry in the latest testing only to do what most people could predict and ‘unifficially’ select Multicam. US Soldiers deserve the best uniform that we can find AND field, not ‘the next generation’ of nothing.

    Personally, I like the idea of dedicated patterns with a transitional variant for gear and kit but that would be terrible logistically, a better idea would have been to ask for one submission, a transitional variant (since that would be a decent amount if a soldiers gear anyways) with the option of developing dedicated woodland and desert variants later. Essentially, ask industry to come up with a better Multicam NOW, and focus on other developments later. That way you stream-line fielding of a possibly better option and don’t have to wait for the army to stock up on multiple patterns before getting it to soldiers.

  4. majrod says:

    SSD – good prophetic points. I agree with much but FTR the larger problem across DoD continues to be missed, ignored or avoided.

    In the ’08 testing that supported the ’09 decision to go with OCP. There was a pattern that performed better than OCP. It wasn’t selected.

    From the ’08 analysis (p15), ELEVEN of 12 comparisons a version of the camo not selected beat OCP/Multicam. In EIGHT of 12 (75%) the desert version of the superior camo beat OCP/Multicam. In three comparisons BOTH versions of the superior camo patterns beat OCP/multicam. We always hear how Multicam did so well vs UCP. UCP was more effective than OCP/Multicam in ONE test, the same number of times OCP/Multicam was more effective than the superior pattern that WAS NOT selected.

    That pattern? MARPAT. http://www.scribd.com/doc/19823845/Photosimulation-Camouflage-Detection-Test

    I’m all for beating up the Army for the absolute and repeated stupidity they have demonstrated in the camo wars. The waste and decisions to send our troops into combat with substandard patterns borders on criminal behavior but I’m not for ignoring the same repeated hubris and obstructionism that initiated this situation. It needs to be said that lives were lost at some point because soldiers wore camo patterns that weren’t the best.

    When Army officers refused to provide support to CPT Swenson and CPL Dakota Meyer there was appropriately hell to pay over the death of four Marines and a Soldier. My question? Where is the accountability?

    BTW, to preempt the denials here are the links to the numerous comments from senior USMC officials denying the patterns use.

    FTR I’ve no ax to grind with Marines who as individuals are overwhelmingly great Americans. I have issues with their leadership and the decision to create and monopolize a camo pattern after 60 years of borrowing Army patterns.

    • orly? says:

      I’d like to add COP Keating and Corporal Pat Tillman (THREE times to the head? Seriously?) to the “Where is the accountability?” list please.

      • majrod says:

        Really? What do those incidents have to do with the case? No Marines were involved. Is this just a flailing attempt to throw mud at the Army? What about the issue?

        Should I add the commandant’s blatant violation of command influence, shopping for a commander that would courtmartial Marines over the urination case? The effort to silence a Marine lawyer whistleblower by relieving him, confiscating his computer, calling for a psyche eval and confiscating his personal weapons? What about deciding not to court martial CPT Clement when the evidence came to light his defense was being obstructed and demonstrated command influence? Instead they went with an administrative separation all the time the former commandants son was being protected and allowed to transfer while other officers in the BN were flagged. http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/29/marine-corps-whistleblower-faces-vengeance-from-su/

        There are other Marine specific incidents. NOT productive and I’m not interested in tarnishing the Corps. Grow up and take responsibility instead of throwing a temper tantrum.

    • Lnsrp says:

      “If Army leadership desires, for any number of reasons, to maintain a single, multi-environment camouflage pattern for combat missions, then one must first consider all possible environments that a Soldier can encounter during a mission set. For instance, in present day theaters, Soldiers can manuever from desert mountainous terrain to oasis to urban terrain during a single mission. MultiCam® provides a readily available alternative with good overall performance across all three environments”

      From your own link majrod

      I agree that one pattern will not perform as well as two niche specific ones, but given the performance of multicam, it performs the best overall as a “universal” camo. Personally, I don’t believe in universal camos and think MARPAT would have been better for all branches. Or the air force and army could have told the marines to piss off and adopted the Navy’s NWU in woodland and desert.

      MARPAT works better than Multicam in those instances, but in the wooded terrain overall, its advantages over multicam are negated.

      • majrod says:

        I put up six links bro.

        • Lnsrp says:

          From your first one, the photo simulation link.

          • majrod says:

            Yes, read the summaries of each pattern p17. MARPAT wins 45 of the 108 data ponts vs. 44 OCP and then outscored OCP performance by five points (15%) in the second phase.

            You’re quoting the conclusion which doesn’t follow the above testing results. I always like to see the actual test results. it’s harder to get fooled that way. BTW, study doesn’t even address the superior performance of woodland MARPAT. The study doesn’t address that 90% of Afghanistan’s forests (6% of the country) have been depleted in the last decades due to illegal lumber smuggling into Pakistan. If the Army was really focused on an Afghanistan pattern, maybe they should actually focus on Afghanistan’s geography? http://www.usma.edu/gene/SiteAssets/Sitepages/Publications/Afghanistan.pdf The conclusion to me seems a justification for how they wanted the test to come out when the scores didn’t comply.

            I don’t agree with single patterns, universal camo approaches either. From what SSD says they are tweaking OCP into multiple patterns which confirms both of our positions about single patterns…

  5. Sal says:

    I thought the whole point of the phase IV transitional pattern was so the Army could field a camo that worked decently in multiple environments and consequently get away with issuing the woodland and desert types as specialty items only?

    • KiNEtIX says:

      The transitional pattern was supposed to be a bridge between the desert and woodland versions, essentially, the army wanted a separate pattern to do what coyote brown does for the USMC. And yes, it was supposed to work across multiple environments which make the idea if fielding 3 patterns even worse. If the competition had been geared towards focusing on a transitional pattern, it would save time and money and have the best chance of getting something better than Multicam (which is damn good to begin with).

      • Aaron says:

        Negatron ghostrider…

        • Sal says:

          I could’ve sworn that uniforms in the transitional pattern would’ve been issued to garrison forces (and overseas forces in transitional environments) with the specialized patterns being issued only to forces going into really wooded/desert environments?

          • KiNEtIX says:

            Oh, my bad, I totally forgot about the fourth camo that was supposed to be for kit, but that’s the point I guess, 4 different patterns-it is (and was) too confusing. Plus, if the pattern for gear is supposed to blend with the other three, doesn’t it make more sense to just field that pattern rather than deal with multiple patterns that are environment specific?

  6. Chad720 says:

    Not only is the Army continuing to make a mistake with its choice(s) of camouflage but also the uniform entire. The ACU uniform is easily the worst designed uniform I’ve ever worn having gone from the old woodland cammies to MARPAT and now to the ACU after I switched to the Army to fly. I hate the ACU and hate is a strong word. The ACUs I have are rarely worn (because I wear the A2CU) and they are already worn out. After only a few years of occasional use the Velcro and seams are toast. Patches barely stay on and most of all the uniform itself is very uncomfortable.

    I put on my MARPAT deserts bottom today to go on a boots and utes run and I felt the quality, the cut and pride of wearing it come rushing back. I want the Army to design a uniform that will give me that again. A uniform that is durable, functional, fits well and gives me that ironman feeling when I put it on in the morning.

    The only thing ACUs do for me in the morning is wake the house up when I’m messing with the Velcro.

    • SSD says:

      Oh no, the ABU is the WORST uniform fielded in recent memory.

      • Chad720 says:

        Speaking from your experience your are probably right. The icing on the cake for me was one night in the field I realized how easily I could see everyone in ACUs. We literally glowed in the dark.

        But for the meat of my post why aren’t we addressing the design a long with the camouflage pattern?

        • SSD says:

          Because as far as the Army is concerned they are happy with the ACU

          • xdarrows says:


            Are there any reasonable venues where would could make our voices heard about the deficiencies of the ACU itself, exclusive of the camouflage discussion?

            I assume any change would require numerous NCOs writing to their Congressmen?

            • This guy says:

              The ACU cut is lacking. I’d like to see the hook and loop go all together. It’s sufficient.

              I do see merit in your writing Congress idea. Not for changing the ACU but to speed the switch to OCP. That change needs to happen now.

              OCP may not be perfect and many folks like to point to it’s shortcomings and that there are better patterns available. All if that is true but, it’s a short sighted view. OCP is light years ahead of UCP. A decent camoflauge is better than the moon glow crap worn now. Another point. I would like to make to some of you is that camoflauge goes beyond just your uniform and your gear. The pattern of your uniform and gear is just a base to build upon adding local flare to it. ie; dirt, foliage, etc

            • SSD says:

              How about you complain to the Army?

      • Chad720 says:

        I chuckle at the name of the ABU. A uniform they actually can’t wear to battle.

  7. BobTheBuilder says:

    Ive been waiting all day for this story you told us to come and read, and you repost something from 2010…. 🙁

    • Bill says:

      Agreed, you mentioned that everyone needs to read your article on Monday, I thought you would have some new info for us. ????

  8. james says:

    I have to agree that adopting a transitional pattern is the right move. I would love to see them develop area specific patterns later though.

  9. Abn says:

    I’m a little confused. In the last post, someone asked about an official announcement and SSD posted there wouldnt be an official announcement, more details on Monday. Am I missing an article? Any details are appreciated, thank you.

    • SSD says:

      Sorry guys, someone decided to go full retard by publishing a bullshit, agenda driven op-ed that was loosely based on facts in order to use the Naval Special Warfare community as pawns. I felt that getting to the heart of that matter was more important. More info coming soon.

      • Abn says:

        SSD, I absolutely agree with you. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I appreciate your contribution in all matters military.

  10. HOLLYWOOD319 says:

    I almost got scared a little bit that either A. you all forgot or B. there was something I missed. After what you all at SSD told me that last time I posted. But, at the same time I had also come to the modest conclusion that because the “Big Army” couldn’t “officially” announce anything, maybe you guys couldn’t either.

    Good thing I try to stay up to date with the comments. lol

    Standing by….