The Army Combat Uniform (ACU) currently worn by American soldiers is an upgrade from the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) and Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) which were worn in the 80’s and 90’s through early 2005. The now obsolete BDU’s underwent several color and textural modifications throughout its tenure, from the very first uniforms issued in the early 1940’s to the Engineer Research and Development Laboratories (EDRL) pattern used during Vietnam. This “Woodland Pattern” consisted of four interlocking colors, namely black, brown, green, and light green.
The old uniformworked well, but received many complaints for its tendency for heat retention, especially debhilitating in desert environments. Carrying large amounts of gear was extremely difficult. The open weave fabric also proved ineffective at staving off punctures from insects, which lead to the speading of diseases.
The ACU advanced the Woodland pattern with the Universal Camouflage Pattern, a pixelated pattern which uses tan as a base color to gray and sage green. This scheme is most effective in desert environments and was designed primarily for the current combats in Iraq and Afghanistan. The pixelated, “digital” pattern more seamlessly blends with natural patterns and is thus harder to detect; also, the new uniform is devoid of black, a color not commonly found in nature, and especially not in the desert.
The nylon cotton fabric of the ACU allows for a cooler uniform than the BCU or the Desert Camouglage Uniform (DCU) which was made solely of cotton. Like the versions before it, the ACU’s pattern is designed for jackets, field jackets, trousers, and head gear. Importantly, the Jackets are outfitted with Infrared IFF squares to identify friendly soldiers when night vision is employed.
Regarding care, it is against regulation for the uniform to be starched, as that hinders the color scheme, and is supposed to be washed with a mild detergent that does not contain “optical brighteners”.
The cost to each soldier for the ACU uniform is $76, marked up from the $58 for the BDU’s, although allowances in pay have compensated for the rising cost. ACU’s are available to the general public without Infrared.
Regulation Army Combat Uniform Wear and Appearance
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