For once, the message from Big Army is clear. The new Army Combat Uniform is available for purchase. Soldiers can buy it, but they certainly don't have to. During the next several years, in garrison, soldiers can wear the old ACUs, the new ones, and the Multicam versions they received for deployment.

It sounds like straightforward, common-sense instruction.

Meanwhile, commanders and senior enlisted leaders have found a way to muddy things considerably. Since the rollout began July 1, Army Times has received reports of confusion in the ranks as some unit leaders have discouraged soldiers wearing different uniforms in formation. While commanders have the authority to dictate uniform wear, the intent from Army brass is for units to embrace the fact they'll have soldiers in different camo patterns for the next several years.

Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey attempted to clarify the policy in a July message to nominative command sergeants major, but the message apparently hasn't reached the National Guard. In recent weeks, officials from the Vermont and New York National Guard have instructed their soldiers not to buy the new camo and they have pushed soldiers to all wear the same camo pattern.

These leaders both said they didn't want to pressure their soldiers to go out and spend money on new uniforms, especially because their troops don't receive a uniform allowance. That message could have been easily expressed without forbidding everyone from wearing them. Soldiers are capable of making the financial decision. It's a set of ACUs, not a Ferrari.

There is no good reason to deny soldiers the opportunity to wear a better uniform, one that includes design upgrades that soldiers themselves asked for.

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