A number of soldiers complained their unit commanders are discouraging the wear of multiple camouflage patterns in formation, and the word has gotten to the SMA.
Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey had a message sent this week to all command sergeants major reminding them that — during the several-year transition from the old Army Combat Uniform to the new one — there can and should be mixing of uniforms.
"Commanders continue to hold the discretion to dictate the duty uniform, but they should be comfortable with allowing multiple uniforms to be worn within their formation during this transition period," according to the message, sent via Dailey's executive officer, Sgt. Maj. Joe Parson Jr.
Soldiers were able to begin buying the new Operational Camouflage Pattern as of July 1 at 13 U.S. posts as well as South Korea and Japan. Over $1.4 million of the new gear was sold on day 1, according to an email from Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder. In the first 11 days more than 33,000 each of coats and trousers were sold worldwide, according to the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.
The wear-out date for old ACUs with the Universal Camouflage Pattern is Oct. 1, 2019. During this transition, soldiers in garrison can also wear their old MultiCam uniforms, acquired during deployment.
As part of the rollout, Army brass stressed that soldiers cannot be forced by their command to buy new uniforms, or forced to keep wearing the old ones.
Army Times received three complaints from Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based soldiers who said their unit leaders were trying to dictate uniform wear in formation.
SMA heard similar complaints at a recent visit to Fort Riley, Kansas. Dailey's office also discovered complaints via social media, and said the Army's personnel directorate (G-1) had also passed along reports.
"The Chief of Staff and Sergeant Major of the Army would like to encourage your Soldiers to wear any of the authorized uniform patterns in formation if they have them," Parson wrote in his statement.
After learning of complaints via Army Times, Fort Campbell officials reiterated the message on OCP from the Army brass. Lt. Col. Brian DeSantis, 101st Airborne Division spokesman, pointed out that while regulations allow commanders some discretion on uniforms worn in formation, that authority is typically used to adjust to the training environment, such as on a hot day.
DeSantis theorized that there may be some "overzealous, company-grade officers" to be blamed for the recent complaints. These officers "may have been doing what they thought was right, but didn't understand the overall perspective of what the Army was doing," DeSantis said.
Some soldiers haven't had the chance to "defy" such officers with their new uniforms; some stores have experienced shortages of new OCP items.
"As is expected with the introduction of any highly demanded item, there are spot shortages in some sizes at some locations," Stalder's email said. "The strong demand for the uniform is a strong indicator of widespread Soldier acceptance of the ACU in this pattern."
Stalder wrote that AAFES and Defense Logistics Agency are working to address any supply issues.
Below are the sales figures from July 1-11, according to a spokesman for AAFES:
OCP ACU Trouser: 33,411
OCP ACU Coat: 33,670
OCP ACU Patrol Cap: 25,086
Tan 499 T-Shirt: 56,115
Tan 499 Belt: 13,026