Military Monday: Soldiers of fashion

August 8, 2005
The color alone is almost enough to win the hearts of soldiers. While older uniforms are either tan or a mottled mix of brown, black and green, the new ones are just plain minty.
The Army combat uniform that’s getting issued to Fort Carson troops comes with a tricked-out camouflage pattern in shades of Army green — green from the mandarin collar to the expandable calf storage pocket with Velcro closure. Color aside, soldiers are sure to be pleased with labor-saving aspects of the uniform. They’ve been polishing black boots to a mirrorlike shine for more than a century, but soldiers will now wear boots made of rough, tan-colored leather — no shining required. “After 30 years of shining boots, this is a wonderful thing,” said Command Sgt. Maj. David List, the top enlisted man in the 3,600-soldier 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, which was issued the uniforms last month in anticipation of Iraq duty this fall. The uniform was the innovation of soldiers at Fort Lewis, Wash., who wanted to make improvements on the Army’s Cold War-era battle dress uniform, called the BDU by troops. Master Sgt. Jeff Myhre, a veteran of the brief 1989 campaign in Panama, said he and others in the Army’s first Stryker brigade combat team at Fort Lewis began envisioning a new uniform about three years ago, and he worked on the design. “It’s much easier to maintain,” Myhre said of the uniform, which includes pockets on sleeves and legs to give storage space to soldiers wearing body armor. As fighting raged in Iraq, the Army grabbed the uniform idea and ran with it. Every soldier will have the new uniform by late 2007, with the 3rd Brigade getting the first uniforms issued at Fort Carson. As workers handed out the uniforms at a Fort Carson motor pool, 3rd Brigade soldiers said they were impressed with the quality and the quantity of what they were getting. During the brigade’s first yearlong deployment to Iraq, soldiers had a wardrobe of just two tan desert uniforms. “They got pretty torn up,” said Staff Sgt. Curtis Graffam, a cavalry scout. Each soldier gets four of the new uniforms, which are don’t require dry cleaning or ironing. “I think they’re pretty nice,” said Sgt. Andrew Marsh after picking up his new clothes. The uniform is lightweight, which will allow soldiers to stay cooler in Iraq’s desert heat. “I think the old ones attracted the heat,” Graffam said, remembering suffering in a tan uniform. Equipping the brigade with the new gear wasn’t cheap. The four sets of uniforms together cost $370, or more than $1.2 million for the unit. List said soldiers were happy to be getting the gear, but many are withholding judgment. “We’re going to be giving it a test,” he said. “We’re going to be wearing it for a year in Iraq.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0240 or THE OUTFIT The new Army combat uniform is being issued at Fort Carson. A few highlights: Cost: About $90 per uniform, including a jacket, pants, an undershirt and a patrol cap, but not counting the boots. To issue all new uniforms to Fort Carson’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team cost more than $1.2 million. Improvements: -The uniform comes with a wealth of pockets including places to stuff gear on sleeves and lower pant legs. - It’s cheaper to maintain, because dry-cleaning and ironing aren’t needed. - Soldiers get tan boots that never need a shine. -It comes with built-in pockets for knee and elbow pads. - Everything from name tags to unit patches stick on with Velcro, so soldiers no longer need needle and thread every time they change units or get promoted. AIR FORCE BASIC ISSUE Here’s what new Air Force recruits are issued for uniforms and personal gear. The Army and Navy have similar guidelines: c One duffle bag c One pair dress shoes c Two ties c One set U.S. uniform insignias c Three long-sleeve dress shirts c Four pairs of wool socks c Five brown T-shirts c Six pairs of underwear c One garrison cap c Two towels c One belt c One belt buckle c Two pairs of physical training shorts c Two physical training T-shirts c Four pairs of cotton socks c One pair of running shoes c Three short-sleeve dress shirts c One pair of sweat pants c Four pairs of dress trousers c One dress service coat c Four pairs of camouflage trousers c One lightweight jacket c Four camouflage jackets c One all-weather coat c Two camouflage caps c One pair of combat boots c One pair of leather gloves c One sweat shirt SOURCE: U.S. AIR FORCE
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