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Crear models new duds for Army

[12/21/04]Thanks to a redesign of the U.S. Army’s combat uniform, Brig. Gen. Robert Crear said shiny shoes will be for Sunday only.

Crear, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the new uniform will be a boon to soldiers in the field because they had the biggest part in the design.

“You can’t get a uniform this functional without feedback from the guys who are wearing them,” Crear said.

Included in the replacement for the Army’s regular uniform, officially known as Battle Dress Uniforms, is a switch from black boots to tan.

“After 29 years in the Army, I won’t have to shine a boot again. What will I do with my time?” the brigadier general said with a grin on his face.

The Army unveiled the uniform June 14, its 229th birthday. It has been tested by Stryker Brigade soldiers since October 2003.

Only general-level officers and their staff have been issued the redesigned uniform, officially known as the Army Combat Uniform. Beginning in 2005, soldiers going to Afghanistan and Iraq will get the new uniforms. All Army soldiers will have the duds by 2007.

The changes all have a purpose, said Col. John Norwood, who led the redesign project.

“This isn’t about a cosmetic redesign of the uniform. It’s a functionality change of the uniform that will improve the ability of soldiers to execute their combat mission,” Norwood said.

Eighteen changes were made. Among them:

The camouflage was changed to a “digital” pattern, and the color black was removed because it is not a natural color of woodlands or the desert the two places where the uniform will see the most use. The camouflage pattern was designed so that soldiers serving in both desert and wooded areas could wear the same thing.

All patches will attach by Velcro so soldiers can swap them if they change rank or if they needed to hide their rank or unit information.

Pockets have been removed from the waist and added to the chest, arms and legs.

Crear said the waist-level pockets were worthless in a combat situation.

“Once you had your flak vest on, you had no access to your pockets,” he said.

The knee and elbow areas have pouches so that padding can be inserted. Crear said this would help soldiers in urban combat, who often kneel for long periods.

Buttons have been replaced by zippers and Velcro to make putting on the uniform faster and easier. Buttons are an annoyance when a soldier wears body armor, Crear said.

“It’s the most comfortable uniform we’ve ever had,” Crear said.

The uniforms cost $88 each, $30 more than the old model. However, money and time will be saved by not having to get patches sewn or have the uniform laundered and pressed. The new uniform is wash-and-wear and made of wrinkle-free material.

“It’ll recoup the difference in the cost,” Crear said.