27 August 2010

Mississippi MultiCam Media Madness

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division has sure been in the news a lot recently--and all it took was a change of clothes.

The Iowa Army National Guard unit was the first-ever to receive the full-issue of MultiCam uniforms and equipment. Astute observers of the Afghan theater of operations will have already noted the camouflage pattern in limited use downrange. There were test fieldings and other experiments. During a special screening of "Restrepo" earlier this year, Red Bull soldiers noted that the 173rd Airborne BCT was sporting the mud-colors back in 2007.

The news was big enough to warrant a personal visit to Camp Shelby from Sgt. Major of the Army Kenneth Preston.

While the commercial/civilian market still calls the textile MultiCam, the Army is calling it the "Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern" (O.C.P.) That's opposed to "Universal Camouflage Pattern" (U.C.P.), which apparently isn't as universal as first thought.

The uniform itself is called "Flame-Resistant Army Combat Pattern" (or "Frak-You"). No, I am not making this up.

The 7-color camouflage pattern tends to look like yellowish mud against the pine-green forests of Mississippi. (Parents of young children might be reminded of something else.) On the subdued "Red Bull" patch, the beloved bovine skull is now yellow-brown, rather than sage green. "How now, yellow-brown cow?"

The uniforms are flame-resistant and insect-repellant. Hook-and-loop fastener tape (aka "Velcro") has been replaced with old-school buttons. Collars and crotches have been reinforced. And the infrared tab has been hidden away in a better place.

Related equipment includes lower-rise mountain boots, and a "plate-carrier" harness that will allow soldiers to ditch some of their armor while still protecting vital organs from the big 7.62 mm bullets. That means that, as mission dictates, soldiers can drop 15 pounds of equipment weight. A "Tactical Assault Pack" ("TAP") distributes more magazines more evenly than the old gut-buster ammo pouches.

The new uniforms won't be worn until after the Red Bull rotate through a major training exercise in California later this year. Soldiers will be allowed to break in their new mountain boots, however.

The Army Combat Uniform (A.C.U.) isn't going anywhere. The Red Bull soldiers will return and exchange the OCP equipment for their standard sage-greens when they return from Afghanistan in 2011. The Army says it may continue evaluating camouflage patterns. Meanwhile, so that its personnel on the ground can continue to blend with their Army counterparts, the U.S. Air Force appears to be moving toward MultiCam in Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see what the "blue-suiters" deploying with the Red Bull end up being issued.

Here's a list of recent MultiCam Media Madness, featuring Red Bull soldiers:
Army News Service:"New uniform for OEF protects soldiers, hides them better"
Army Times:"Soldiers receive new MultiCam ACUs, gear"
Des Moines Register:"Iowa troops get new uniforms, but pack them away for now" (text; photo comparing OCP and UCP)

KCRG-TV9:"Iowa soldiers will be the first to wear new uniforms in Afghanistan" (text and video)
USA Today:"Military sees it's time for change in camouflage" (text, photo, infographic)

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