Here’s my uniform for tomorrow, hanging conveniently on my door.
In 2006, the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) replaced the long-time standard duty uniform of all four branches of the military: the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU.) The switch sparked controversy, and all of the NCOs in my platoon who’ve been in long enough to remember the BDU miss it.
Honestly, I feel ambivalent about it…having worn both the BDU and ACU for years (remember, I first contracted with ROTC in September of 2004!) There are definitely trade-offs.
The ACU has some good things:
- You don’t have to iron the uniform or polish the boots. That’s a huge plus in my book. I hated doing that as a cadet, as I felt it was a complete waste of time. My platoon sergeant insisted that having to maintain the BDU gave soldiers a chance to show pride in their uniform, and it instilled a level of discipline the Army is now lacking. He insists that ever since soldiers got a uniform they could just toss on the ground at night and throw on in the morning, the discipline went downhill. I guess I could see that.
- The extra pockets and pen-holders on the sleeves are handy. I use them to hold everything from gum to floss to a field notebook. I’m all about utility, and I’m also about…
- Comfort. The ACU is lighter and more comfortable than the BDU. Also, the cut of the uniform is more ergonomic, and the indents around the shoulder area allow for a greater range of motion.
The ACU also has some glaring liabilities:
- Durability. BDUs were much more durable. In a garrison setting, this isn’t a big issue but in the field, it’s a huge issue. The ACU material wears out easily, and the velcro on the pockets and badges deteriorates to the point to which it can’t be used anymore, after a matter of just a few months! Lots of soldiers have issues with the crotch ripping. Heck, I’ve even torn my ACUs by getting them caught in my bicycle chain! It’s ridiculous.
- The velcro. The ACU uses velcro patches instead of sew-on patches ostensibly to save time and money…but seriously, how often is someone going to change units, let alone rank, name, etc? It’s tedious putting it all together, and it tends to get caught in things. And, as I stated earlier, it wears out after awhile. And it doesn’t look too sharp…
- You can’t roll up your sleeves! That’s a pain in the butt, especially on hot days.
…and that’s what I have to say about that. Would any of my military followers care to add their $0.02?