PIÑON CANYON - An Army uniform is normally a cloth resume, showing where soldiers have fought and how they've been trained.

Experience is obvious at first glance, with jump wings, combat patches and other job-related insignia.

But that's not the case for Fort Carson's 1st Brigade Combat Team, where commanders have banned everything but the flag, last name, rank, "U.S. ARMY" and the 4th Infantry Division insignia during training this month for the unit's more than 4,000 soldiers.

"It's a culture thing," said brigade commander Col. David Hodne, who mandated the austere fashion statement.

It's not a statement of jealousy on Hodne's part. If he wore them, Hodne's uniform, even without medals, would be covered in insignia, including the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge, Air Assault Badge and a Master Parachutist Badge with a bronze star affixed to symbolize a jump in combat.

The colonel can also wear any one of several combat patches on his shoulder to signify units he has served with in battles overseas. But Hodne's green Army combat uniform is as bare as the most-junior private's - except for his colonel's eagle.

The colonel said he made the switch for a couple of reasons. One was to welcome new blood.

Hodne's unit, which has seen a radical reorganization over the past year from tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles to eight-wheeled Strykers, is loaded with brand-new privates whose uniforms are bare of insignia. Instead of standing out, the new guys look like everyone else in training.

"It's about the collective, it's not about the individual," Hodne explained during a training exercise last week at Fort Carson's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad.

He also wants to send a message to veterans who have as much gear decorating their uniform as the brigade's boss.

"Character counts more than your resume," he said. "It's heart more than what you did five or six years ago."

The uniform change is a subtle reminder to all the brigade's soldiers that they have to keep learning to keep up with the emerging threats of a still dangerous world, Hodne said.

After training, soldiers will go back to displaying their impressive achievements. But in the field, they are all the same.

"It goes back to culture," Hodne said.


Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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