By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Nov. 30, 2015) -- As winter weather approaches and temperatures drop, Soldiers turn to their cold-weather gear to keep warm outdoors while conducting training or operations.
Many Soldiers now wear their Army Combat Uniform, or ACU, in the new Operational Camouflage Pattern. But their organizational clothing and individual equipment, or OCIE, such as their wet-weather gear and their Extended Cold Weather Clothing System sport the Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCP.
Soldiers don't need to freeze so as to avoid a uniform faux pas, however, the Army wants Soldiers to know that it's okay to wear the foliage green fleece cold-weather jacket and other UCP cold-weather gear on top of their new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform.
"Soldiers should continue to use the equipment they have been provided to remain safe and warm in environments that call for it," said Sgt. Maj. Eva M. Commons, uniform policy sergeant major, Army G-1. "This is why the Army gives you this gear to wear."
Cold-weather gear is not part of the "clothing bag" issued to Soldiers during basic training. Instead, Soldiers get items like the fleece cold-weather jacket, the wind cold-weather jacket, the soft shell cold-weather jacket and trousers, or the extreme cold/wet-weather jacket and trousers from the clothing issue facility, or CIF, at their installation.
Commons said that no matter what ACU Soldiers are wearing - the one in UCP pattern or the one in Operational Camouflage Pattern - they are allowed to wear the winter-weather gear that is issued by the CIF.
"Any item issued from CIF is permitted for wear," she said. "There is no restriction based on camo pattern or color."
The Army also has two different colored T-shirts available for wear under their ACU. There is the "sand-colored" T-shirt and the "Tan 499" T-shirt. Belts are also available in both of those colors. Boots are available in sand or coyote colors, as well.
The rule here, Commons said, is that when a Soldier is wearing the UCP ACU, he or she must wear the undershirt, belt and boots designed for wear with the UCP ACU. However, when Soldiers wear the Operational Camouflage Pattern ACU, they can wear "any combination" of boots, belt and T-shirt, in any of the available colors; the boots, belt, and t-shirt do not have to match each other.
Commons caveated that, however, by saying "both your left and right boot must be the same color."
The Army, Commons said, has an inventory of items including belts, boots, T-shirts, uniforms, and cold- and wet-weather gear. Each of those items has a certain wear life on them. Items such as cold-weather jackets last a very, very long time, she said. Other items, such as T-shirts, can be worn for less than a year before they ought to be replaced.
The liberal policy for how uniform items can be mixed with the Operational Camouflage Pattern ACU allows the Soldiers more flexibility in the wear of their uniform, and additionally allows more time for the Army to eventually get OCIE in the new Operational Camouflage Pattern.
"With all these different uniforms, we have to give the widest range of allowance to Soldiers to properly wear, and not have that come out of pocket," she said. "It also allows the Army to make sure they have proper stock in issuing facilities to support demand."
Commons said that Soldiers can continue to wear the UCP ACU until Sept. 30, 2019. After that, they must show up to work wearing the Operational Camouflage Pattern ACU.
Soldiers who are deploying or have an operational need are provided with OCIE items in the Operational Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, also known as OEF-CP.
"Deployers will never go without," Commons said. "The Army will ensure Soldiers get the appropriate equipment for their mission."
The Army has been issuing the pattern to those deploying for some years and will continue to do so until the transition to Operational Camouflage Pattern.
It will be some years before UCP OCIE is exhausted and is replaced with Operational Camouflage Pattern OCIE because the items are "quite durable," Commons said.
Commons also said some Soldiers had expressed confusion about what camouflage pattern the name and service tapes should be in on their UCP-colored fleece jacket. She said the name and service tape pattern should match the color of the fleece jacket, not the pattern of the ACU the Soldier is wearing underneath.
BLUE, WHITE AND READ THE REGULATIONS
Commons said that for some time, the OEF-CP was worn only in Afghanistan. And while deployed to Afghanistan, the rule was to wear the tactical subdued American flag patch on the right sleeve.
"Soldiers had only seen the subdued patch on that uniform, so they assumed that is the only patch allowed with that uniform," Commons said.
But that is not the case.
According to AR 670-1, paragraph 21-18, "All Soldiers will wear the full-color U.S. flag embroidered insignia on utility and organizational uniforms, unless deployed or in a field environment."
Commons said that the OEF-CP ACU, and the Operational Camouflage Pattern ACU can, and should be, worn with the full-color American flag while in garrison. Soldiers should wear the subdued flag patch on those uniforms while deployed, or in a field environment.
First sergeants, she said, will let Soldiers know when they are going to be in a field environment, and what the uniform requirements will be.