Letter Re: The Army and Marine Corps New "Digital" Pattern Camouflage Uniforms

Thursday, Apr 27, 2006

I have to highly recommend AGAINST the Army's new ACU uniform. Officially, there are only a few detergents "approved" for cleaning them, to avoid excess wear on the fabric. The running complaint from people with ACUs (a mere few months after issue) is that they wear out within a few washings. Soldiers are wearing them to look strack, but wearing their old BDUs in the field for durability. Also, ACUs are expensive.
I got to see a firing line full of troops a couple of weeks ago. At less than 100 yards, both ACUs and the new MARPAT Marine uniforms blended to a neutral gray because of how small the pattern is. While that's better than no camo, it's no better than the old green fatigues. Meanwhile, there were still visible color breaks on BDUs at that range. Since the main purpose of camouflage is to disrupt outlines, the BDUs are better. I'm not happy with the excessive amount of green in BDUs--most of nature is brown or tan--but they do work.
Additionally, walking around a military base is instructive. At considerable distance, the brain screams, "Look! There's someone in the new ACUs!" The color choice doesn't seem to blend in in any terrain, and is visible against most natural and artificial backgrounds. The Army insists that black wasn't used because "black isn't a color found in nature." Bull. Black appears as shadow at a distance. Something without shadow cannot blend in. There is so little difference in the tones of color used that there is no contrast.
Frankly, as much as I love high tech, I'm convinced the digital fad in camo will die a quick death. One of the big selling points is that it's better against [electro]optics. But how many of our current threats are using [electro]optics? And since that is the case, showing troops a video of a pattern designed to defeat digital video technology gives them a false faith in the reliability of the pattern to defeat the Mark 1, Mod 0 eyeball.
My preferred camo for the last 20 years has been [the commercial] All Season All Terrain (ASAT). (See: www.asatcamo.com.) Take a look. I think you'll be impressed. - Michael Z. Williamson

JWR Replies: As previously mentioned, the Army gray-green pattern does blend in well in sagebrush. But I must concur that the color is not right when seen against most other foliage. And yes, it does lack sufficient contrast.

One often overlooked consideration for survivalists wishing to secure a retreat is the need to distinguish friend from foe at a glance. By standardizing with an uncommon camo pattern (such as ASAT or perhaps one the various RealTree patterns) for all of your retreat residents you will more easily be able to detect someone infiltrating your property. I know of one retreat group in Northern California that uses Swiss Alpenflage (a distinctive camo pattern with lot of red blotches in it) for just this reason. (And, not coincidentally, their retreat property is infested with poison oak, which has red leaves for half of the year.) The Woodland BDU pattern, although quite effective, is ubiquitous in North America. (It is also used around the globe--from the Philippines to Serbia!) As the new digital patterns are fielded , there will be even more Woodland BDUs hitting the U.S. surplus market. So be forewarned that if you standardize your family (or retreat group) with Woodland BDUs, then you will lose lose the advantage of instant friend from foe recognition at a distance.


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