You can buy it, but you can't wear it.

New York National Guard soldiers are not authorized to wear the new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform during their monthly battle assemblies until after May 1, 2016, according to a memo signed by Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the state adjutant general.

This memo contradicts guidance from senior Army leaders, who have authorized the wear of OCP uniforms as of July 1 across the Army. It also comes on the heels of a video featuring Command Sgt. Maj. Toby Quick, the top enlisted soldier in the Vermont National Guard, instructing soldiers to "refrain from wearing the new OCP uniform until 1 January 2016."

Despite the contradiction, Col. Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman for the New York Guard, insists Murphy's message is "absolutely in line" with Army guidance. He also said the primary goal is to ensure soldiers don't feel pressured to pay out of pocket for the new uniforms.

"Our soldiers are going to be issued the uniform, they don't get a clothing allowance," Goldenberg said. "We're trying not to create undue pressure on soldiers to feel compelled to spend their own money. We're telling our soldiers to ensure they understand it will be issued to them in the new year and to wait for it."

The memo from Murphy, dated July 1, outlines the New York Guard's transition plan for the OCP Army Combat Uniform.

"Although available in clothing sales for purchase in July 2015, NYARNG soldiers are authorized to begin wearing the new OCP ACU and the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern OEF-CP ACU (sometimes called 'MultiCam') after 1 May 2016," the memo states.

New soldiers at initial entry training will be issued the OCP uniform beginning in January, according to the memo.

This means May is approximately when these new soldiers will begin arriving to their units after completing training, Goldenberg said.

The May 1 "official wear date for units in the New York National Guard" for formations and drills was set to "coincide with when the first enlisted soldiers will be in formation with the new pattern," he said.

"The important factor is not to create any undue pressure or influence among noncommissioned officers and young enlisted members of the force that they ought to purchase the uniform at their own cost when there's no requirement for that," Goldenberg said.

The Vermont and New York messaging on camo has contributed to mounting confusion to the roll out policy and hundreds of comments via Army Times Facebook page. Some soldiers said they understand their peers shouldn't feel pressured to buy the camo, but that leaders shouldn't punish those with the disposable income and the desire to wear new and improved cammies. . In addition to a new pattern, the uniform includes a number of design modifications that soldiers requested. 

Those who choose to buy the new uniform before May 1 can wear it "as individuals," for example, if they are on temporary duty or attending a professional development course that would have them interacting with other members of the Army, Goldenberg said.

Active Guard and Reserve and technician soldiers who have to replace their Universal Camouflage Pattern ACUs "due to wear and tear may purchase and wear the new OCP ACU rather than purchasing the old UCP ACU," the memo states.

All soldiers — active, Guard or Reserve — have until Oct. 1, 2019, to transition to the new OCP uniform.

In the memo, Murphy also wrote: "My intent is to reduce individual soldier expense and facilitate a uniformed transition to the OCP ACU." Despite the implication of a "uniformed transition," Goldenberg refuted that Murphy is trying to reduce the number of mixing and matching in drills.

Army leaders, including Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, have said mixing and matching uniforms within units should not be a concern during the years-long transition from ACUs with the Universal Camouflage Pattern to the new OCP version.

"The New York National Guard has seen a mix of uniforms for well over a decade," Goldenberg said, citing the transitions involving the desert camouflage, UCP and MultiCam uniforms.

"We're accustomed to seeing a myriad of uniforms," he said. "What we're establishing is a uniform transition period where soldiers who need not purchase that uniform won't feel any obligation to do so. We're going to time our donning of our new uniforms to when our very first soldiers will be issued that uniform return from their time in basic training and [advanced individual training]."

Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.

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