WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 5, 2014) -- For the first time ever, a handy pocket guide for Soldiers is now available to explain the specifics of their annual Clothing Replacement Allowance.
"We didn't have this knowledge when we were coming up," said Sgt. Maj. Mark Chance, senior enlisted advisor for the Army's G-4.
The tri-fold pamphlet is the brainchild of Chance and Sgt. Maj. Ray Toups operations sergeant major for G-4 in the Pentagon.
The pamphlet spells out exactly what Soldiers are required to maintain in their clothing bag. It provides the expected useful life of each item, the standard annual replacement allowance for each item and recommended replacement intervals.
Until now, most Soldiers never were told exactly how their annual clothing allowance was calculated, Chance said. "No one ever sat them down and explained what the money is for," he said.
The Clothing Replacement Allowance, or CRA, pamphlet does just that, and the G-4 NCOs want the pocket guide made available to first sergeants, platoon sergeants and squad leaders throughout the Army.
"Our idea is mainly to get it into the hands of our first-line leadership," Toups said.
One requirement NCOs have at the unit level, Toups said, is to inventory Soldiers' clothing bags annually. The CRA pamphlet will help with that, he said. It will also be a handy tool for sergeants to pull out of their pockets, he said, when they find a Soldier in formation with a torn or worn-out uniform.
"It's one more thing they can use to maintain readiness," he said.
Chance said NCOs can put the knowledge in their "kit bag" for future use. "It's all about the process," he said, explaining that Soldiers today appreciate knowing why the Army does things.
"You can tell a Soldier why, but if you show them, they will understand it," he added.
For instance, it shows that the Army Combat Uniform jacket has a useful life of six months with a replacement cost of $44.98 each. Each year, the CRA provides enough money to replace two ACU jackets, which is a total of $89.96.
On the other hand a pair of boots has a useful life of 24 months with a replacement cost of $96.75 per pair. Each year, the CRA provides one-half of the money to replace one pair of boots, which is a total of $48.38.
Likewise, the Army Service Uniform coat is expected to last four years. So the annual clothing allowance only covers one-fourth of cost of the dress blue coat: $30.48 is provided annually for the male coat and $25.92 for the women's coat.
Six to eight items differ in price for men and women, and that's why the annual Clothing Replacement Allowance differs slightly for male and female Soldiers.
This year the standard CRA for male Soldiers is $440.89, and the allowance for women is $468.05. The allowance varies slightly from year to year with the cost of uniform items.
Toups and Chance actually went to Clothing Sales stores this year to check the price of every item before finalizing the pamphlet.
Chance also wanted to inform Soldiers that when new clothing items are developed to replace current clothing items, the Soldiers aren't "coming out of pocket" when purchasing the new items. The current CRA already covers the cost of replacing clothing items as they reach the end of their useful life. "Wear-out" periods for the current items will generally match the useful life of that item.
For instance, the new Army Physical Fitness Uniform will debut in Military Clothing and Sales Stores sometime in the first quarter of fiscal year 2015. Following the CRA pamphlet, the current IPFU components have a useful life of between 12 and 24 months.
Soldiers will likely have up to 24 months to phase the new APFU into their clothing bag. Over that 24-month time period their CRA will provide them with enough funds to replace two short-sleeve t-shirts, two long-sleeve t-shirts, two pair of shorts, one jacket and one pair of pants.
The clothing allowance is also only provided to Soldiers who are on active duty for more than 180 days, Toups said, because after their initial issue, they are expected to maintain their own clothing bag. National Guard and Army Reserve troops get "issue in kind," Toups said, explaining that they are issued uniforms that are expected to last three years, but sometimes replaced more often depending on "fair wear and tear."
Soldiers in their first three years of enlistment receive a reduced annual amount, or "basic" Clothing Replacement Allowance. Soldiers begin receiving the standard CRA after their third anniversary of continuous active service, Toups explained.
Rather than printing a huge supply of the CRA pamphlets, Toups and Chance want to save trees and funding by distributing the pamphlet via the Internet and through NCO leadership courses.
Chance said a number of the Army's Warrior Leader Courses are already asking for the pamphlet.
Chance provided the CRA pamphlet to senior NCOs attending the Force Management Course at Fort Belvoir, Va., two weeks ago. He also provided the pamphlet to leaders attending a briefing at Fort Myer about updated Army Regulation 670-1.
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CRA pamphlet [PDF]