Infantry: Combat Uniforms Evolve On The Fast Track


February13, 2007: The U.S. Army continues to make small improvements in its combat uniform (ACUPAT, or Army Combat Uniform camouflage pattern). The army has a web site where troops can report problems, and suggest improvements, for the ACUPAT, and there's been a lot of traffic. The changes may seem minor, but they mean a lot to troops in combat. For example, the number and placement of pockets. This has been changed several times, and now complements the protective vest, and the kind of stuff troops put in the pockets. Then there's the monochrome American flag patch, attached via Velcro, that reacts to infrared light. This makes it easier to positively identify U.S. troops at night, without lighting up the area. There are several other Velcro strips for the attachment of patches and badges. Most of the pockets are closed with Velcro. The knee pads, which greatly reduce knee injuries for infantry, are now inserted in a pants pocket over the knees. Other changes involve the blouse collar ("Chinese" style, to keep crud out) and the closures on the blouse and pants cuffs (also to keep debris out.)

In combat, troops go through ACUPATs quickly (often after only a week of heavy combat), so the army is constantly ordering new ones. With the rapid feedback via the army website, and ACUPAT manufacturers ready to make changes quickly, troops often see suggestions they made at the beginning of their Iraq tour, incorporated in ACUPATs they receive near the end. This not only makes for a better combat uniform, but does wonders for morale as well.




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