As the Marine Corps moves forward into
the 21st century, we continue to look for new ways to improve the
lethality, survivability, durability and comfort of our
Marines. Our current camouflage utility uniform is almost a
quarter century old. Over the years the Marine Corps has phased
through various modifications to the utility uniform, from the
original temperate version to the current nylon/cotton version - but
the basic design and camouflage pattern has remained the
General James L. Jones, 32nd Commandant
of the Marine Corps, directed Deputy Commandant, Installations and
Logistics (I&L) to review the combat effectiveness of the current
camouflage utility uniform. That task was then delegated to the
Commander, Marine Corps Systems Command (MarCorSysCom) for Research
& Development, which assembled a project team to manage the Combat
Utility Uniform Program. The team consisted not only members of
MarCorSysCom, but of others as well to include the Marine Corps
Uniform Board; the Clothing Design Office, MCLB Albany; Logistics
Capabilities Center, I&L; Defense Supply Center, Philadelphia
(DSCP); the Scout Sniper Instructor School, Quantico; and Natick Labs.
The team quickly gathered research and
data to determine the inadequacies of the current utility
uniform. By means of historical precedent, data obtained from
modern industrial advances and Marine focus groups, it concluded that
the uniform did not meet typical demands placed by Marines. Three
areas of requirements
were framed for further study: fabrics, design and camouflage.
The first priority guiding the team
was the issue of uniform durability. It researched fabrics
worn by Marines in past and obtained modern fabrics resulting from
recent advances in the clothing industry. By charting wear
patterns, the team noted general trends such as trousers wearing out
on average at a rate six times faster than blouses. Of the
fabrics tested, the current fabric blend of nylon and cotton was
determined to have sufficient durability or comfort - depending on
its density, or weight. During review with focus groups, the
team observed a common trend among Marines to wear heavier fabric
style of utilities when durability was required during field-type
training, but wore a lighter fabric style of utilities for comfort
while in garrison. The heavier utility uniform, also known as
"woodlands", is made of 7.5 oz/yd2 nylon/cotton
fabric and the lighter utility uniform, known as
"poplins", is made of 6.5 oz/yd2 nylon/cotton
fabric. The challenge lay in combining the comfort of
"poplins" and the durability of "woodlands" into
a single utility uniform.
The team also explored how design
improvements could maximize the combat utility of the uniform.
Several ideas were explored, ultimately resulting in five basic
- "Product Improvement."
This design would take the current uniform and make structural
improvements with the least amount of modifications in
A hybrid of the " product improvement" and "radical" designs, this
design would improve fit and durability, with less consideration
to garrison appearance.
This design followed the intent of maximum combat utility, with
no regard to garrison appearance considerations.
Similar to aviation suits and other coverall-type uniforms, this
design was based upon a previous MarCorSysCom test project.
Following a mission-oriented intent, this design would have a
base uniform, upon which additional camouflage or other specific
items could be added.
Each design was developed
conceptually and reviewed with focus groups. For all
designs, the team experimented with making the uniform reversible,
thereby providing Marines with two uniforms -- desert and woodland
-- in one. Advantages and disadvantages were explored in depth
as the team continued to refine its recommendations.
the team progressed with fabric and design ideas, it also considered
one of the essential elements of any combat uniform:
camouflage. As with textiles and clothing, advances had also
been made in the hunting and outdoors retail areas. Over a
hundred samples were obtained by the team and tested for color
range, pattern suitability, and tactical flexibility. As a
force suited for "every clime and place," any pattern
would have to be effective in many environments. Samples
ranged from computer generated designs to familiar hunting patterns.
The initial screening reduced the field of potentials to eight
patterns. These remaining patterns were then evaluated by the
Scout Sniper Instructor School in Quantico, VA. The School
reviewed the samples in broad areas of pattern and colors, applying
considerations to each sample as they sought to determine the
The results of the
initial research were then briefed to the senior leadership of the
Marine Corps. The team had demonstrated that the uniform could
be improved via several different methods; however, determining which
methods to use would require guidance. Certain camouflage
patterns were ideal for deciduous vegetation-type environments, while
others more suitable for coniferous vegetation-type environments; some
design modifications were more compatible with existing uniform items
than others; other factors could be further researched but would be
time- and force-intensive. The team had collected so much information
that it needed to be narrowed down to specific areas of focus.
As Marine leadership reviewed various concepts, each aspect was
considered with respect to individual and service need for "best
value", combat effectiveness, and ultimate cost within realistic
supply and fiscal constraints. Upon conclusion of discussion the
following "go forward" guidance was provided:
to two patterns: the familiar and venerable
"tiger-stripe" pattern and a new Marine custom-designed
digital pattern using optimized colors.
to two design concepts: after reviewing the impracticalities
of the "one-piece" and "modular" designs, both
ends of the remaining range were chosen to move ahead -
"product improvement" and "radical".
- Two color
schemes: although possible, a reversible uniform proved
beyond manufacturing cost parameters; uniform development would
continue with the expectation of separate woodland and
Although the options
had been narrowed down considerably, many remained. At the
conclusion of the brief, the Commandant of the Marine Corps expressed
his desire to involve all Marines in the determination of the final
prototype design. He tasked the team to find out a way to
personally involve as many Marines as reasonably possible.