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Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Officials went to the source to ensure
new Marine uniform pleased troops

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U.S. Marine Corps
/ Stars and Stripes

The Marine Corps announced last month it will adopt a new utility uniform, above, designed for field use.

CAMP FOSTER — The Marines are getting a head-to-toe makeover for the camouflage utility uniform, and it could hit military clothing stores by December.

Marine officials announced last month they will adopt a new utility uniform designed for field use. Out is the traditional woodland camouflaged pattern used by all U.S. military branches. In is a new pattern designed to blend Marines better with their surroundings and last longer under harsh conditions.

The new uniform will cost the same as the current camouflaged utility uniform.

The uniform change comes after more than a year of design testing, including an Internet-based survey of more than 23,000 Marines.

“We knew right from the beginning the uniform is near and dear to every Marine,” said Marine Maj. Gabriel Patricio, Marine Corps liaison officer in Natick, Mass. “We needed their input. It was extremely important. Every design feature in this uniform was recommended by Marines.”

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones said he wanted a uniform that fit Marines better, lasted longer and was more useful in the field. And he wanted it to reflect the distinct character of Marines.

Jones said Marines studied several types of camouflage before coming up with the design.

“The design came about as a result of essentially comparing the camouflage capabilities of all known camouflages, literally around the world,” he said.

He said the uniform would better distinguish the Marines from the other services. Combined with the new martial arts program, it will give the Marines a different image.

“It will have a message that will be unmistakable,” he said.

Search for a better fit

Researchers spent about $350,000 developing the new uniform, Patricio said.

Researchers came up with competing designs based upon the survey results and put the new uniform through the grinder.

Marines in Okinawa, California and North Carolina tested the uniform over three months in the jungle, the desert and in amphibious operations. Both men and women tested the uniform for fit, comfort and durability. They provided feedback to researchers throughout the field trials about what worked – and what didn’t.

The result is a radical variation of the utility uniform. About the only carryover from the old uniform is the idea of rolling sleeves inside out.

Some of the new features:

  • Gone are the lower pockets on the blouse.

  • Pocket flaps that once featured plastic buttons now use Velcro.

  • Trouser adjustment tapes were scrapped for an integrated elastic waist adjustment.

  • Brown suede boots replace black boots, complete with the Marine Corps’ eagle, globe and anchor on the ankle.

  • Pockets also were added to the upper parts of the sleeve.

  • The eagle, globe and anchor also appear embroidered on the new slanted chest pockets, the same as the traditional octagonal utility hat and the new “boonie” hat to be added to the new issue.

  • Collars were redesigned to be smaller and more comfortable.

  • Cargo pockets on the legs feature an elastic enclosure.

  • Belt loops were changed to accommodate the upcoming issue of Marine “rigger’s belts” in varying colors, which reflect Marines’ achievements in the Corps’ new martial arts program.

  • The blouse was even designed to make it easier for Marines to tuck it into their trousers in the field.

For the field, knee and elbow pad inserts were added to the uniform, “an issue that went over very, very well in testing,” Patricio said.

Subdued rank for the field is coming. Rank insignia that appeared silver will now be black, and once-gold ranks will be brown. But that’s only for the field. Traditional metallic insignia will be worn in garrison. There is no change for enlisted insignia.

The biggest change

But the most obvious change is the pattern, called Marine Pattern.

The new uniform features a computer-generated pattern patented by the Marine Corps. The pixel-style pattern “is more effective dry and wet,” Patricio said. And it’s coming in both woodland and desert patterns. It will be worn only by Marines and sailors assigned to duty with the Fleet Marine Forces, in accordance with regulations.

The uniform’s fabric also has been improved. Uniforms now are wrinkle-free and feature a permanent-press crease, eliminating the need for pressing and starching, which is said to degrade fiber.

Designers combined a longer-lasting fabric for the uniform with a lighter material.

Researchers chose a heavier trouser fabric to address increased durability while lighter blouse fabric will be used for increased comfort, Patricio said.

Even the seams on the trouser got a makeover. Reinforced diagonal seams replaced horizontal seams on the current uniform. The diagonal seams are expected to last longer by spreading the stress of the seam over a greater area.

Some tested features didn’t make the cut.

Zip-off sleeves and leg gaiters were tested, but proved too difficult to maintain or not effective in field environments.

New look for Christmas

Patricio said the new uniform could appear in uniform stores as soon as December, at which time Marines will be authorized to wear it.

Recruits at Marine Corps Recruit depots in San Diego and Parris Island, S.C., will get their initial issue beginning in March.

Marines will be required to maintain four sets of the new uniform, two woodland and two desert, Patricio said. That’s one less set of utilities than Marines are required to maintain today. The mandatory requirement date is set for Oct. 1, 2005.

Patricio added the Marine commanders may rotate between woodland and desert patters.

“I fully expect the desert uniforms will be worn as much as the woodlands,” he said.

Other items such as helmet covers, flak jackets and Gore-Tex parkas will transition to the new patterns as they are routinely replenished through the supply system.

Patricio said the Marine Corps Uniform Board will publish regulations for wearing the new uniform in the near future.

Jan Wesner Childs contributed to this report.

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