Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Uniformity (Part 1)

Based on this announcement that the Air Force was now fielding OCP (OEF Camouflage Pattern) for Afghanistan deployers, I was inspired to

A) Actually post something longer than 140 characters
B) Rage about uniforms (starting with the Air Force)

Granted, I have been out of the active-duty military for a few years now, but as I remember it, the underlying goal of a camouflage uniform is to blend in with ones surroundings.  Thats why it was so difficult to watch a few years back as the Air Force field tested this monstrosity (a uniform so hideous that the vendor who developed it is embarrassed by it)

In what may have been the most unified moment in Air Force history, there was a collective outcry against this abomination and eventually this pattern was tabled and we ended up with the Airman Battle Uniform.  The ABU basically took the worst features of the Battle Dress Uniform (the outdated design) and coupled it with the worst features of the Army Combat Uniform (a digitized pattern of questionable effectiveness).  If that wasn't bad enough, in an effort to retain the 'flavor' of the uniform at the right, the Air Force insisted on a modified 'tiger stripe' pattern and added a 'slate blue' to the final palette.  Granted, this was a damn sight better than the smurf blue they started with, but still nothing approaching good.

This is the final result:

There are still a litany of complaints against this uniform, most of them forehead-slappingly obvious.  For example, instead of being constructed of a relatively light-weight material that could be layered for cold weather climates, the material was actually heavier than the old 'winter-weight' BDUs, meaning that it would be excruciatingly hot in warm-weather environments (good thing we don't fight in any of those).  To make matters worse, the Air Force included an interior 'map-pocket' on both sides of the uniform made of two additional layers of the same heavy material.  This means that the front side of this uniform has a minimum of 3 layers of heavy-duty, cotton/poly material (even more if you count the places where there is another layer for the external pockets).  Of course, Airmen immediately cut out these unnecessary layers which led to the requisite post-hoc regulations to keep pace with actions people were already taking. 

Ok, so the point of this post is that demonstrate that the Air Force either doesn't know how to develop a combat uniform (insert punchline here) OR didn't really care about the tactical aspects of this uniform and was only concerned with having something "unique."  My guess is that it was probably both.

Ok, so now the ABU has been finalized and is largely fielded (mandatory wear date is Oct 1, 2011).  The ABU was supposed to be the Air Force equivalent of the Army's "Universal" Camouflage Pattern, meaning it was initially justified as being a replacement to the woodland and desert BDUs.  Now however, the Air Force is rolling out a new pattern for Afghanistan.  Let that sink in for a minute...

They haven't even fully fielded their last uniform and they are rolling out a new one.

They are also reverting back to the 2-uniform solution (Afghanistan vs. Everywhere else) I wish that I could say that this behavior was specific to the Air Force, but its not.  Collectively, the DoD has demonstrated that we have no idea how to develop, field and sustain a combat uniform.

Don't get me started on the Navy Working Uniform....

Admiral Mike Mullen 

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