Darn Tough Vermont

Is MultiCam The Future Of USSOCOM?

In the past, there’s always been something interesting in the Marine Special Operations Command Booth and this year is no different. This manikin depicts a MARSOC Critical Skills Operator equipped with the latest and greatest gear.

Currently, the United States Special Operations Command purchases specialized clothing and individual equipment for its personnel in multiple colorways. These include MultiCam, AOR 1 & 2, various shades of Green, Coyote, and M81 Woodland, to support the various missions of its different components.

US Army Special Operations Command and Air Force Special Operations Command have been using MultiCam for over a decade, while Naval Special Warfare Command has used the AOR 1 and 2 camouflage patterns for Desert and Jungle environments, respectively. MARSOC, the newest SOF component, has relied primarily on Coyote PPE and M81 Woodland uniforms due to years of working as advisors to the Afghanistan National Army. Otherwise, the CSOs have worn Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniforms and 782 Gear in MARPAT Woodland or Desert.

For some time now, SOCOM has considered whether to transition all four components to a common camouflage pattern in order to streamline acquisition. For a short period, this looked to be the case, but a fiscal reality may have thrown a glitch into the plan.

For years, NSW has relied on the AOR patterns which are costly to field due to the Command’s small number of personnel and supply chain fabric minimum orders. For example, even if a glove order only requires 2,000 printed yards of a specialized fabric, the printer may require a minimum of 5,000 or even 10,000 printed yards in order to make it worth their while. Fabric that isn’t used still has to be purchased, even if it won’t be used for some time. At one point the process was tying up so much of industry’s working capital that the government took on inventorying the fabric and doling it out for each contract. Considering the number of different, technical fabrics worn by special operators, and doubling the numbers to accommodate two different prints, this can get very expensive.

The idea was raised to transition NSW to MultiCam. Already, individual units within the Command were purchasing MultiCam items for deployments. On the surface, it made sense. But reportedly, when the numbers were crunched, it turns out that replacing WARCOM’s current complement of equipment with brand new MultiCam gear, is more expensive than continuing to pay more for gear printed in AOR. It’s understandable; they can’t have SEALs wearing AOR blouses and MultiCam pants, or carrying packs in one pattern with armor in another. There’s just so much already invested in AOR.

It will be interesting to see at what point the math begins to make sense. Until then? NSW will remain a hybrid, fielding AOR at the program level and purchasing MultiCam at the small unit level.

On the other hand, MARSOC’s wear of M81 Woodland was tied to a specific mission which has all but gone away. The time of the old Woodland pattern is once again over. Aside from that, there has never been a large purchase of SOF-unique clothing for MARSOC. Consequently, procuring clothing and PPE in MultiCam from here on out isn’t as daunting a task. In fact, it’s a smart use of limited resources.

So, is MultiCam the future of USSOCOM? Eventually.

31 Responses to “Is MultiCam The Future Of USSOCOM?”

  1. Moshjath says:

    I wonder if broader adoption of AOR by the rest of the Navy will change things for NSW switching over to multicam in the long run.

    • Mike says:

      I was thinking the same thing. For AOR2, at least, the entire Navy is buying uniforms made out of the fabric. SOCOM won’t need to stockpile fabric in that pattern.

      But AOR1 (desert) remains restricted to NSW. And interestingly, the Big Navy is now without a desert pattern, because in practice, although 3-color desert BDUs are still authorized, no one wants to wear them (who says fashion doesn’t apply in the war zone?).

      If WARCOM relents and allows the rest of the Navy to wear AOR1 (and why not? it looks close enough to the USMC desert pattern that I kept getting confused for a Marine when I flew up to Kabul and walked around people who weren’t familiar with it – it’s not a super-spooky pattern unlike anything else), then that would generate some more demand, and help with economies of scale…

      • Erik says:

        I’m not one of the cool kids that get AOR1; I just happen to deploy a lot to to a barren desert area, and am told to wear AOR2 (thanks NECC).
        I can’t speak for the rest of the fleet, but for those deployable, expeditionary units, I fail to see why we cannot use AOR1 if we are, in fact, in a desert AOR. I guess NSW doesn’t like to share.

        • Sean says:

          I was at a NECC command when that whole thing went down. It was a decision that was made at the OPNAV level so honestly you can’t blame NECC too much for that one. My understanding at the time was that the Marine Corps objected to the idea of general sailors wearing a desert camo patter that was too close to MARPAT. the question was asked at the time what are NECC folks going to do and the answer was we will figure something out later, and as you can image later never came.

      • SSD says:

        You do realize that SOF clothing uses different fabrics that Big Navy?

        • Mike says:

          “You do realize that SOF clothing uses different fabrics that Big Navy?”

          Not for the mark 1, mod 0 shirts and pants that people are wearing in garrison, and inside the wire down range. The SEALs and the support troops walked around in the same AOR1 uniforms inside the wire. And the AOR2 I was issued by SOCOM when I got home is exactly the same as the AOR2 the Navy is rolling out to every IT specialist and bosun’s mate today.

          The fancy fire-resistant combat shirts and pants that the techs don’t typically wear? Yes, those are different.

        • Seans says:

          Wait you mean to tell me my garrison cammies that we got handed out left and right and could get replaced with ease, where made of a different material than the op camies that were a complete pain to get. Man,
          who knew. /s

      • b_rawrd says:

        Currently in Iraq. I see a lot of navy guys in their digi desert. Most of them aren’t seals. Not sure if somethings changed.

        • Ed says:

          Then they are probably assigned to a TU from NSW or an adjacent unit that falls under NSW. Support for NSW will wear the same uniform or non-standard uniform ie, brown T and green BDU shorts like back in the states.

          Don’t nuke it.

  2. TominVA says:

    Why can’t the just stick with MARPAT?

    • SSD says:

      I guess you missed the point of saving money.

      • TominVA says:

        I’m not missing the point, just not seeing the “how,” since MARPAT is standard issue already for the whole USMC. Or is it there specialized fabric requirement or zippers, or pockets at a unique angle or something?

      • JohnBooth says:

        How many millions or billions would the US Military save the taxpayers by adopting a single camouflage pattern uniform, and all associated gear, for all the military services–like the woodland pattern that the Navy, Marines, Army, and Air Force wore during the Cold War?

        • Tom says:

          The Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force don’t have any problems meeting the minimum yardage amounts required to produce PPE in the pattern they want. There is really no waste in taxpayer money. Taxpayers money is wasted by continuously changing patterns not having different branches use different patterns.

          Different patterns do become a problem when you have smaller organizations like NSW that don’t have the numbers necessary to meet the minimums so they have to order more fabric than required to procure the items they want as explained in the article.

  3. Will says:

    The more logical question should be, why not create a separate SF branch made up of applicants from all the other branches? It seems to me that the SF units from the various branches are already looking to distance themselves from their regular components. Why not go all in?

    To play devils advocate, I’m a Marine, and I am not a fan of separating the Corps into special groups. Marines have always been able to recruit because of the idea that all Marines are equal. I understand the reality is different, but I really don’t want to see the Corps turn into a smaller Army.

    • Bryan M says:

      It already has.

      It would almost make more sense to make SOCOM a branch, push the infantry into it, and combine the rest of the Army, Marine Corps, and a lot of the little oddities like Air Force advance air base forces, CBS, etc.

    • 2DT says:

      What is wrong with you? You don’t want to separate” units within the Marine Corps because one unit shouldn’t be more “elite” than another? Besides the fact that MARSOC/Raiders are under SOCOM command, you’re telling me that a Recon Marine is the same caliber as an Admin clerk? Get real.

      I think the DOD should go under a unified, working camouflage like Multicam. Having one camouflage pattern allows for troops to purchase and use more specialized uniform and gear items to better complete their job. If you think a MARPAT utility uniform and Coyote PPE/gear work well you’re high. Maybe if the gear was made in matching MARPAT it would be more worth it, but a solid brown color doesn’t assist camouflage.

      • Ed says:

        Will, get your verbiage right! “SF” only refers to Army Special Forces which in-turn is recognized as the Green Berets. Yes, many other parts of USASOC like to think of themselves as SF but they are not. If you refer to generic “Special Operations” of each branch the term SOF, Special Operations Forces encompasses them all. Your gonna piss of an old SF bubba referring to other branches as SF.

        Lesson over.

    • Papa6 says:

      I agree. While we’re at it; why don’t we reorganize DoD more like the way our allies do? Let’s have Ground Forces, Air Forces and Naval Forces. Could also add DoD wide Medical Corps, Engineering Corps, etc, etc.

      The budget and deficit are out of control. We, as a country, need to seriously reassess how we spend our treasure and blood.

  4. Thomas says:

    “It’s understandable; they can’t have SEALs wearing AOR blouses and MultiCam pants, or carrying packs in one pattern with armor in another. There’s just so much already invested in AOR.”

    Great write up, and not trying to post a “gotcha” reply, but this happens often. Some Teams more or less than others, and some Platoons can be anal about not mixing and matching, but Multicam has been worn with AOR1/2 for a long time. Lots of guys paid out of pocket for Multicam Crye or Arcteryx pants/tops the first few years after Patagonia was issued. Cheers.

  5. b_rawrd says:

    Mannequin guy is good to go!
    -Radio. Check!
    -2 Mags. Check!
    -MC Handwarmer. Check!

  6. Ex Coelis says:

    Have to echo what Thomas stated – great write-up! Perhaps another (minor) consideration would be that, there are already so many units – Australia, New Zealand and UK that are presently fielding their own ‘flavour’ of MultiCam, the U.S. might consider doing the same. With tax-payers ultimately footing the bill; I know any monies spent on uniform kit is always a primary consideration. Still don’t completely understand why the U.S. military went with Caleb’s also-ran Scorpion camouflage… If a fish goes to hide in a school of fish, almost makes sense to me for the U.S. to enjoin with Australian, New Zealand and UK Forces to completely adopt Crye’s MultiCam. However, not knowing what the cost of many hundreds(thousands?) of yards of MultiCam versus Scorpion materials actually cost, obviously not qualified to opine too much further. According to some of it’s detractors, Crye Precison’s various tactical shades of MultiCam look like a Smurf threw up but after using it for a few years now, found it works and it works well. Thank you, great article SSD!! Cheers to all here!!!

    • Tom says:

      Simply put the Army did not want to pay Crye Precision for the Multicam licensing fees so they updated the Scorpion camo that was developed by Crye for them as part of the Future Force Warrior program. Hence Scorpion W2 was adopted.

    • PC says:

      There ARE slight variations in the “multicam” derived patterns used by the Brits, Aussies, NZers AND with commercial Multicam and US “scorpion” multicam.

      Technically, they’re 5 separate patterns. With the UK, Aussies and NZ patterns being almost indistinguishable from each other.

      When you put UK MTP against US “mulitcam””scorpion” the diserning eye of a US Command Sergeant Major CAN spot the difference. Enought to invoke a twitch – they know they can spot a difference, but they can’t quite put they’re finger on it.

      (Drawn from my experience wearing a modified UK MTP smock worn with US “multicam””scorpion” camo uniforms. (modified to include sewn on multicam nametapes, qual badges, chest rank, and velcro on shoulder pockets to allow wear of US unit patches and US flag patch)

  7. Ex11A says:

    Just to throw some fuel on the fire, that helmet and goggles appear to be in Army Tan 499, and not coyote.