Soldiers of the U.S. Army will no longer wear the Universal Camouflage Pattern, otherwise known as the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) pattern or Digital Camouflage as of October 1, 2019.
Officials have been phasing out the pattern since 2014, replacing it with the "Scorpion" pattern, otherwise known as the Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP). The OCP has been generally regarded as a major improvement over the ACU, according to Soldiers.
"With the OCP, we've been able to improve upon the functionality of the ACU and carry that forward into a uniform that has already gained more functionality and more popularity than the ACU ever had," said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Law, senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Reserve 412th Theater Engineer Command based in Vicksburg, Mississippi. "The end of the ACU era means we're creating a better uniformity across the force, with the OCP offering better performance at blending in, and I think it makes our Soldiers look more like warriors," Law said.
The OCP is particularly well-suited for the Command's operations in places like the forests of Korea and South America, he added.
During the early 2000's, numerous serious concerns regarding the ACU pattern reached Congress, and lawmakers decided to make a change. In 2009, Congress passed House Resolution 2346, ordering the Department of Defense to "take immediate action" to provide combat uniforms to personnel deployed to Afghanistan with a camouflage pattern that is suited to Afghanistan's environment.
Hundreds of trials were conducted via computer simulations and at many locations worldwide. U.S. Army Leadership determined ultimately, the "Scorpion" pattern was determined the most effective. "Scorpion" abandons the digital pattern of the ACU for a more organic look, featuring colors and shapes that are found more often in nature. As for issued gear, there are still Soldiers who are currently outfitted with pieces that are in the ACU pattern. That's a problem for some leadership.
"I think uniformity is important, so we should turn in the ACU gear and receive the OCP pattern," said 1st Sgt. Kimberly Jones, first sergeant of the Command's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. Jones said the OCP uniforms also appear to withstand more wear. "The material is heavier, so it lasts longer before it starts to fade."
This type of OCP uniform is not the only one being worn by Soldiers. Soldiers in Hawaii and at Fort Benning, Georgia, in July 2019 saw the rollout of the Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform (IHWCU). The IHWCU is designed with a fast-drying nylon/cotton blend, intended to increase comfort in hot-weather theaters of operation. The new uniforms will use the OCP color scheme and Soldiers can expect to find these at military clothing stores by February 2020.
Beyond 2020, the Army is looking to outfit Soldiers with combat uniforms made of material that can conceal them from ground-based radar systems. Other innovations include utilizing a special fabric coating that could potentially keep Soldiers warm without having to don multiple layers.