More on Clothing.
A previous article on Clothing can be found here
Gen. Shinseki has immortalized himself by being the Chief of Staff to introduce Berets as general wear in the US army. This was done to promote esprit de corps but is a classic example of the right motives and wrong methods.
Firstly, the whole army has adopted the same beret. Berets do not have any magical properties, other than formerly their wear was associated with elite units. What promotes unit pride is looking distinctive.
In the British army most regiments wear berets it's the colour of the beret that is important, not the style of the hat. The same feeling will be found in the US army after a couple of years. Incidentally, there are some units in the British army that do not wear berets and instead wear Glengarries or Tam 'O Shanters etc. Does this make these units feel inferior? Quite the opposite.
Shinseki's second mistake was to adopt a black beret, the colour already being worn by the Rangers. This forced the Rangers to discard their traditional headgear and had a negative effect on their morale.
All of this could have been avoided if a Brown beret had been chosen.
If future Army Chiefs of Staff wish to improve esprit de corps by similar means they should promote the wearing of distinctive headgear and other regimental traditions.
On the topic of headgear, the British "Forage cap" was universally loathed in its basic khaki or airforce blue version. The forage cap resembles the side cap but conceals in its folds earflaps and a peak. Some regiments had versions in regimental colours, and these were far more attractive.
Personally I quite like the look of American and French side caps so long as insignia are not too large. German Panzer troops actually favoured black forage caps over the berets they were originally issued.
Suggested Combat Dress.
Correct headgear for when under fire is the Kevlar helment. This is a field not parade item so should be configured to provide camouflage.
When the helmet is not worn the best items for field headgear are the boonie hat or merkalon headover. Suitably coloured bandanas can be worn instead of or with these.
Helmet with cover, watch cap, headover, Patrol cap or Boonie hat.
Camouflaged smock. On one side modified Woodland/DPM= Green, brown, khaki, graphite grey. Reverse side =Advantage cammo.
BDU Trousers in Field and Forest Tiger pattern or an urban pattern. Neutral grey BDU trousers might also be worn.
Helmet with cover, Shemagh, or light coloured Patrol cap or Boonie hat. Patrol cap might be worn with a Havelock (French foreign legion style neck shade).
Combat Smock in khaki or desert pattern.
Baggy cut trousers in khaki or desert pattern.
At night the green desert night coat and overtrousers are worn, which also provides additional warmth.
Helmet with cover, watch cap, headover, or Patrol cap.
Double P tunic and trousers
Suit of thermal underwear, such as Brynje. Worn instead of double P during high activity or warmer weather.
Double P boots.
These worn under either the temperate camouflage smock and BDUs or a Snow-smock and over-trousers.
Helmet with cover or Boonie hat both worn with insect net that also serves as camouflage veil. It is possible that the Advantage Boonie hat can serve as jungle wear too after the addition of the head net and foliage. The Jungle operations unit of the French 11th DP are experimenting with breathable waterproof Boonie hats.
Green mesh "bug suit" top, probably worn over khaki drab coolmax tee-shirt.
BDU trousers. Olive Green or OG with black/charcoal grey stripes added (simple tigerstripe).
Several companies make jackets and cargo trousers with zip-off sleeves or legs. On a Rohan version you can replace these with insect-proof mesh sleeves and legs. These may need elbow and knee pads to make them more suitable for military operations.
When more warmth is needed, such as at night, when waiting in ambush or high altitude jungle the Green Desert Night coat can be worn.
Fatigues, Barracks wear and Working Dress.
In the early 20th century many armies were approaching the stage when the same uniform could be used as both service dress and field dress. World War Two halted this trend, mainly due to the introduction of mechanization and camouflage.
Ironically it was the German army, pioneers in both the above fields, that seem to have got closest to creating a universal uniform. By changing just a few accessories the same outfit was used for parades, walking out, fatigue, barracks wear and combat.
Currently in the US soldiers tend to use their camouflaged BDUs as fatigue and barracks wear. Apart from making them look like piles of raked leaves, as one veteran puts it, there are good reasons for avoiding this. Excessive wear and laundering of BDUs often causes them to fade in such a way that their camouflage capabilities are degraded.
On the previous page I've suggested that modern service dress should revert to the colour used for US army and USAAF service dress during World War Two. This can plainly be seen in various movies such as The Devil's Brigade and The Dirty Dozen. I think this shade was termed Olive Drab (OD). It's similar to the dark Khaki colour used for World War Two British Battledress (Khaki Drab?) and the colour of the current British army No.2 Dress. A good property of this colour is that it blends well with a wide variety of backgrounds- it's the same colour used for wartime British army battledress. This will help improve the life expectancy of personnel wearing service dress who are unexpectedly placed in tactical situations.
I'm going to also suggest that many of the items used for fatigue or barracks wear also be this colour.
British army barracks wear is typically a beret, shirt, belt and trousers. Often a woolly pully (jumper) is worn with this. Trousers may be those worn with the No. 2 dress but are more commonly plain green Lightweights, similar to BDUs. These trousers may also sometimes be seen as training and field wear. During the 70s and 80s the German military was using a moleskin tunic that was quite commonly found as an army surplus item. This could either be worn as a light jacket or medium weight shirt. It could also be buttoned to the issue trousers to form a one-piece. Such a pattern would be a good basis for a fatigue uniform shirt, and might also be worn in the field under the Combat Smock.
For US fatigue/barracks wear I suggest:-
A jacket is also needed. This will probably be an OG or OD version of the BDU jacket but something a little better tailored would be nice. Possibly a Panteen-collared version of the proposed Ike jacket in OD could be used for barracks and fatigue wear.
- Patrol cap, boonie hat, beret or other regimental headgear.
- Bush shirt/Pilot's shirt, brown Coolmax field tee shirt, long sleeved brown Coolmax shirt with zippered polo neck. Cotton tee shirts with approved designs.
- BDU trousers in OG or Olive-Drab. There are a lot of OG trousers already in use so this is more likely. Khaki/Sand shorts for hot weather.
- Brown or Khaki Drab Fleece Jacket. A NATO Woolly Pully may also be authorized.
I think a short and long form of the ACU jacket would also be a good candidate for Army Working Dress. The Army's hope that the ACU pattern will work as a universal camouflage pattern may be overly optimistic but the ACU pattern does provide good concealment in some environments. While Camouflaged Smocks are a better option for combat wear an ACU pattern working jacket may offer some concealment and protection to wearers. A just as useful feature is that the pattern will help conceal dirt and wrinkles, a strategy adopted for the new Navy Working Uniform.
It can be seen that some field items are also used as fatigue wear.
Some fatigue items such as the shorts may also see field use. The use of Combat Smocks may see fatigue items worn as field items underneath.
Items such as headgear and Ike jackets may be used as service dress. In fact the areas of service dress and barracks wear overlap.
The typical soldier will therefore wear a black beret, short khaki drab jacket and green trousers -not too shabby.