Morale: Message Received Fifty Years Late

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November 21, 2017: The U.S. Army has finally succumbed to decades of pressure to return to World War II style Class A uniforms and, most importantly, return the belt to the uniform jacket. While the troops, especially those in the combat jobs, have long complained (in surveys, informal discussions and finally the Internet) about this the army did it the hard way. Every other alternative, all less popular, were tried before going back to the World War II styles.

The new army uniforms will also look similar to the U.S. Marine Corps Class A uniforms which, no surprise, changed little since World War II.

During World War II the army Class A uniforms were two tone (light brown and green) and nicknamed “pinks and greens”. No one really disliked them and the new “bus driver” uniforms of the 1950s were met with derision and dismay when they became standard in the 1960s. Prototypes of the neo-World War II uniforms will show up by the end of 2017 and probably be mandatory by 2020, just six years after the last new Class A design became mandatory.

In 2010 army decided to speed up the replacement of the 1950s green Class A uniform. In the 1950s the army began wearing "bus driver" dress uniforms (green for the army and a similar blue one for the air force.) In 2005 the army began looking for a more impressive dress uniform and in 2008 they adopted one. The 2010 "Class A" uniform (or ASU, Army Service Uniform) was simply the current blue "Dress Uniform" (dark blue jacket and light blue pants). By the end 2010, troops graduating from basic training were issued the "dress blues" as their "Class A" uniform. By 2014, the ASU was mandatory. The "Class B" uniform was the dress blue trousers and a white shirt adorned with decorations (ribbons, combat badge and so on). For both enlisted and officers, rank was worn on epaulets. The 2010 uniform "system" was similar to the one the U.S. Marine Corps has been wearing for decades, and that's no accident.

However, the soldiers were not impressed, pointing out that, unless carefully tailored, the 2010 dress uniform was as dumpy looking as the old green one. Where's the damn belt? All this exercise and weight control, since the 1980s and the army can't produce a dress uniform that shows it off. To deal with that, the army has ordered that the blue jacket have a more tailored, athletic, cut. There may be a belt, someday. Maybe. After much sarcasm, complaining and scathing comments added to official opinion surveys the army leadership finally figured it out.

All of this was in response to decades of efforts by the troops, to drop the green "Class A" uniform (green jacket and pants, with light brown shirt and tie) and go for something, anything, more impressive. The 2010 Class A uniform was simply the existing dress uniform, with more form fitting tailoring. This uniform, unlike the green Class A's that were introduced in 1954, was based on the 19th century dress uniform. Most enlisted troops do not have the dress blue uniform, because they have to buy it themselves, and that is optional for most troops. But, by 2014, the old Class A was phased out completely. Troops received the new blue ones as their green ones wear out. It will be the same drill for the neo-World War II uniforms. The army, as is the custom these days, conducted a survey and found that the troops were still wishing that the World War II style army uniforms. In many respects you could blame it on the marines, who had the good sense to stick with what worked while the army and air force got lost in unwanted and ineffective reforms of what Class A uniforms work best.

Soldiers have had longstanding "uniform envy" issues when it comes to the marines. The USMC has always sported the most impressive dress uniform, and young enlisted marines were glad to spend at least $300 to buy themselves one. The marine "Class A" uniform is also green, but a darker green, and the jacket is worn with a belt. This looks much snappier, and many soldiers have, since the 1980s, suggested something like this for a new army Class A uniform. Many career army types have been campaigning for a spiffier Class A uniform, and something in blue, preferably with a belted jacket. But instead of a new uniform design, the army simply made the current dress blues the new Class As instead of paying attention to what the troops had been telling them for decades.

The Class A uniform is not actually worn that much, with most troops wearing BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform, with the camouflage pattern) or the Class A uniform without the jacket, when at work. The BDUs come in several different shades, none of them featuring much green. So after a century, the green is gone. The army also eliminated the all-white tropical dress uniform, which was rarely used. The World War II style pinks and greens will be adapted for officer and enlisted uniforms and incorporate suggestions by female troops for the female specific uniforms.

 

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