MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- U.S. Marine Corps and Army camouflage utility uniforms have had alternating blotches of black, brown and green design since the Vietnam War. This jungle scheme has remained unchanged for a generation Ñ until now.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Jones recently asked for Corps-wide input on recommendations for change to the Marine utility uniform.
Jones decided a new and improved uniform should be created that would virtually cause a Marine to 'disappear' by walking into brush or a wooded area. Jones also wanted to provide Marines a unique look, according to a report by Barbara Starr of ABC News.
Albany's Clothing Design Office was involved with the uniform change from inception, said Louis Curcio, Marine Corps Logistics Bases' head clothing designer for the Marine Corps.
"Maj. Gabriel Patricio, [Marine Corps Systems Command] liaison officer for the project, contacted me around March 2000 about the proposed uniform change," Curcio said. "He contracted Natick Laboratories [of Massachusetts] to help with the project and formed a small group, including myself, to survey members from the three Marine Expeditionary Forces on the Corps' current camouflage design and gather input for the present designs being developed.
"After many brainstorming sessions and dozens of experimental prototypes and sketches, the group narrowed the choices down to five different designs," Curcio continued.
"We put those designs on the Marine Corps website for Marines to survey. Using feedback from the troops, we've narrowed it down to two."
The obvious visual change to the current utility uniform is, the old jungle pattern would be replaced by a digital [computer-generated] design of black, brown and green pixels, those tiny dots that, seen from a distance, create an image.
Some physical changes being considered are slanted breast pockets held down by Velcro instead of buttons, zip-off sleeves for summer wear, knee padding and new covers.
Although the jury is still out on two prototypes currently being wear-tested, Curcio said that a final source selection is scheduled for the uniform of choice on April 23.
Maj. Gen. Paul M. Lee Jr., commander of U.S. Materiel Command here, has been issued the two prototypes for field-testing. Lee has welcomed feedback from MCLB Marines, both positive and negative, regarding the new-look utility uniform.
As is the case with change, feelings among Marines remain mixed.
Lance Cpl. Amber Collins, driver for Brig. Gen. Richard Kramlich, commander of LogBases said, "I don't like the pattern. The zip-on sleeves look lazy -- I like my sleeves rolled up. And with the slanted pockets it just won't look right once our nametags are attached. But I do like the boots and trousers," she added.
"They look like something from World War II," said Sgt. Keese Adams, Information Systems Coordinator for Logistics Operations. "As for the effectiveness of the uniform in the field, I don't know."
Retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Don Golden, and current civilian-Marine supply services supervisor concurred.
"It's true," Golden agreed, "they look like a foreign uniform. I don't like them. We should stick with what we have now."
1st Lt. Michelle Hoesing, LogBases staff secretary and former enlisted Marine drillmaster, wasn't enthusiastic by the proposed change.
"Well where do I start?" Hoesing said. "I don't like the wash-and-wear idea, Marines won't look good when in garrison.
"I don't like the zipper sleeves, we already tried zippers years ago, and there were too many repair problems. And on top of that, Marines are known for their distinct roll on the blouse sleeve. I don't like the slanted pockets even though I understand they were designed that way for combat situations.
"As for not polishing the boots, I like my spit-shined boots. I can deal with the design, but if I had it my way, I'd stick with what we already have. I don't think the uniform will make us distinct. We are Marines! We already have that elite distinction."
Staff Sgt. Steven Burkett, academic instructor for MCLB's Corporals Leadership Course, had a different view.
"I like the fact that it gives Marines a unique look," Burkett said. "One of the things I didn't agree with is the suggestion that the uniform not be ironed or starched.
"I think a wash-and-wear uniform will give Marines an excuse to look like a soup sandwich. Another thing I challenged is the slanted pockets on the uniform's blouse. I don't think it will look good if our names are attached above the pockets on a slant. Overall, I like them, but it still needs a little work."
Master Gunnery Sgt. Randolph Scott, operations chief of Logistics Operations and 29-year Marine veteran said,
"It's about time the Corps got innovative and changed to a unique style. We [Marines] were forced into wearing our current utility uniform jungle pattern after the other [U.S.] armed forces went to it.
"I feel this uniform will allow Marines to hide better in the field. The slanted pockets provide easy access and the zip-away sleeves will standardize the different ways Marines currently roll up their sleeves in the summer.
"Another great improvement is the Velcro on the pockets that replaced the buttons. Velcro makes it easier to open pockets in cold climates. And they did away with the lower pockets on the blouse -- they weren't used for anything. It will just take time for Marines to adjust to the look."
Maj. Joel Davis, LogBases" current operations officer said, "When I first saw a picture of the uniform I didn't like it. It reminded me of a foreign service uniform. But after physically seeing the uniform and learning about its features, I was impressed. I'm excited about the change and look forward to wearing it."
"Outstanding!" said Lance Cpl. Brian Taylor, LogBases' operations clerk. "I think they look real good. The only thing I don't like is how the sleeves zip off. It looks too baggy.
"I think the Marine tight roll we have now is nice. Other than that, they look like they would do well in a combat environment."
Master Gunnery Sgt. Martin Satonica, operations chief for LogBases, had few concerns.
"The only issues that were concerns of mine were the durability of the zippered sleeves, and I felt the eagle, globe and anchor should be parallel to the deck," Satonica said.
Brig. Gen. Kramlich's aide-de-camp, 1st Lt. Jayson Durden rounded out the list of opinions. "Change is usually challenged," he began. "I feel the uniform will distinguish us from other services, but it's going to have to grow on Marines. Overall, studies have shown this to be a much more comfortable uniform for training," he said.
The commander of Materiel Command said modifications are presently being made.
"This is a fast developing initiative," Lee began. "More than 1,000 test uniforms have been issued to three infantry companies across the Marine Corps as well as the Tactical Training Exercise Control Group at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, 29 Palms, Calif.
"Also, a desert pattern has been optimized," the major general continued. "Issuing the new uniforms with appropriate changes [following testing] will begin this summer and implementation across the force should begin in October.
"Adjustments to clothing maintenance allowances will begin in October 2002 for the new uniform and will continue through 2004, at which time the new uniform -- boots [desert and intermediate cold] and associated bush cover and garrison cover will be mandatory," Lee concluded.
Marines and civilian-Marines who have not seen the prototype camouflage utility uniforms can view them in Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany's Uniform and Accessory Display in Bldg. 3700's second floor showcase.