The official Army-designed, -tested, and -refined face mask – the Combat Cloth Face Covering (CCFC) – will be provided to new Soldiers during the second quarter of FY2021. This was one of the updates provided to the Army Uniform Board (AUB) during its 152nd meeting, which occurred on Nov. 18.
In response to the current pandemic, the Army has largely provided disposable or reusable, solid color masks to Soldiers who have also been permitted to use neck gaiters and other cloth items, such as bandanas and scarves, as face coverings. This past summer, the Army Uniform Board recommended and General James C. McConville, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, approved issuing CCFCs to Soldiers at Initial Entry Training (IET) as part of their clothing bag. At the 152nd AUB, Army officials said that the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) will begin issuing two CCFCs to each new Soldier during the second quarter of FY2021. The CCFCs will likely be available for purchase at the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) uniform stores later in FY2021. (Note: Existing guidance on face coverings for current Soldiers remains unchanged and can be found at the end of this article.)
The CCFC was designed, developed, and produced along an expedited timeline. It normally takes 18–24 months for DLA to have the item available for order once the technical description, design, and components are approved and submitted. The CCFC, from inception to issuance, is slated to take less than one year.
The AUB also received updates on the implementation status of four other uniform changes from the 151st AUB, which took place in June 2020. A summary of these follow:
- Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform-Female (IHWCU-F): Expected to be added to the clothing bag in the fourth quarter of FY2021 and available for purchase in the second quarter of FY2022.
- Hot Weather Army Combat Boot-Improved (HW ACB-I): Expected to transition to DLA Troop Support for new contracting action in the second quarter of FY2021 and be available for purchase by FY2024.
- Black Athletic Socks: DLA estimates the sock will be available in the clothing bag in second quarter of FY2022.
- Army Physical Fitness Uniform-Maternity (APFU-M): Prototypes are in development. The Army is working with the Air Force and Marines on their past maternity uniform efforts in order to expedite pattern development. Form, fit, and function evaluations are expected to occur in the third quarter of FY2021.
The AUB also discussed additional clothing articles, including items for new and expecting mothers. More information will be provided about these discussions in 2021 after Senior Leader decisions are made.
EXISTING FACE COVERING GUIDANCE:
SOLDIERS ARE AUTHORIZED TO WEAR THE NECK GAITER AND OTHER CLOTH ITEMS, SUCH AS BANDANAS AND SCARVES, AS FACE MASKS. TO PROTECT THE FACIAL AREA, THE CLOTH ITEM MUST COVER THE MOUTH AND NOSE AND EXTEND TO THE CHIN OR BELOW AS WELL AS TO THE SIDES OF THE FACE. THE ITEM MUST ALSO BE SECURED OR FASTENED TO THE FACE IN A MANNER THAT ALLOWS THE SOLDIER TO BREATHE WHILE ALSO PREVENTING DISEASE EXPOSURE OR CONTAMINATION.
SOLDIERS WILL NOT WEAR MASKS THAT HAVE PRINTED WORDING, PROFANITY, RACIST, DEMEANING OR DEROGATORY LOGOS, SCRIPT OR IMAGERY. SOLDIERS MUST NOT ATTEMPT TO CUT UP CLOTHING MATERIALS SUCH AS ARMY COMBAT UNIFORMS TO USE FOR FACE MASKS AS THESE MAY HAVE BEEN TREATED WITH CHEMICALS. IF AVAILABLE, CLOTH COLORS SHOULD BE SUBDUED AND CONFORM TO THE UNIFORM. LEADERS SHOULD APPROACH THIS AS A FORCE PROTECTION ISSUE; THEY ARE ASKED TO USE THEIR BEST JUDGMENT REGARDING THE CLOTH COLOR AND DESIGN OF FACE MASKS AND MUST ALSO CHECK FOR THE SERVICEABILITY OF FACE-SHIELDING MATERIALS. SOLDIERS SHOULD REPLACE ITEMS THAT BECOME SOILED, DAMAGED, OR DIFFICULT TO BREATHE THROUGH.