Monday, November 28, 2005

Uniform fun

The Army has officially (at least here at A Healthy Alternative to Work) entered the "Make Your Own Uniform" phase. This phase exists between the beginning of the issuance of the ACU ("Advanced Combat Uniform") and the wear-out date for the old BDU ("Battle-Dress Uniform"). It's a strange period, and it pretty much means that it's a crapshoot as to what exactly the next soldier you come across is going to be wearing.

Basic trainees began recieving the ACU on Oct. 10, or so says my new roommate, who recently graduated from AIT at Fort Leonard Wood. Drill sergeants here all wear the ACU. Some sections in Headquarters Company have the ACU, others don't. Most deploying units now recieve the ACU.

For the rest of us, there's no real telling when we'll wind up getting a set. For the uninitiated, there are some crucial differences, in addition to the new trousers and blouses:

1) No-shine, rough leather tan boots.

This seems to be the sticking point for most people. Some of the new guys streaming into the barracks who got to Basic too early to be issued ACUs have decided that their first order of business, once they've gotten their rooms set up, is to head out to U.S. Cavalry and buy new pairs of desert boots -- which normally go with the DCU ("Desert Combat Uniform," which you've no doubt seen in the news) and with the new ACU.

These they wear with their BDUs, which have, up till now, included a set of black, polish-until-your-finger-is-covered-in-indelible-black-Kiwi boots.

It looks pretty dumb. But more and more, soldiers here in the States are wearing the desert boots with the woodland-camo BDUs. I've heard different rumors as to what the "rule" is; apparently it was initially allowed for soldiers returning from deployments that required wearing the DCU, and now it seems anyone's allowed to wear the desert boots.

Plus, new guys love new uniform stuff, so they're snapping up ACU-patterned accessories at the Cav Store -- ACU caps, ACU CamelBaks, ACU backpacks, ACU gloves, etc., etc., etc.

Me, I'm the only soldier left working here at the paper, so no matter what version of the uniform I wear, I wind up feeling a little bit like the guy at the office who likes paintball way too much.

I suppose we could call this phase "uniform puberty," where it looks awkward and ugly and isn't quite sure of what to do with itself. Eventually, though, things will even out and the transition to uniform adulthood will be made. Then, we can go back to looking basically the same -- like, as they joke in other services, "expendable trees."