Professionals embracing uniform changes


As the 37th Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA), General Martin Dempsey has repeatedly stated, our Army…our profession…is made up of people.  The people, particularly our Soldiers, have spoken: change the Army Combat Uniform.

On 14 June 2011, changes were made after GEN Dempsey received input from Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Raymond F. Chandler III, who was tasked to gather opinions from Soldiers in the field.

Army Directive 2011-11 (Changes to Wear of the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) Items) outlined changes that will be incorporated into the next revision of Army Regulation 670-1 (Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia).  Effective 14 June 2011, the ACU patrol cap is the primary headgear for all Soldiers as the duty uniform headgear.

Additionally, Soldiers may now sew on the U.S. Army tape, name tape, and rank insignia.  Authorized skill and identification badges may be sewn on once supplies become available.  Soldiers are not authorized to mix sew-on with pin-on badges.  Soldiers will not sew on shoulder sleeve insignia-current organization, shoulder sleeve insignia-former wartime service, tabs, or the U.S. flag.

All Army Activities (ALARACT) message 140/2007, dated 19 June 2007, determined that subdued pin on or sewn on rank is worn on the ACU sun (boonie) hat and the ACU patrol cap.  The beret will be retained for wear with the Army Service Uniform.

As professional Soldiers, we are obligated to accept, embrace, adhere to and enforce standards outlined by regulations and directives.  During this period of transition regarding changes to our duty and service uniforms, it is imperative we remain educated, alert and make informed corrections to our fellow Soldiers when necessary.

 A professional is a skilled expert living according to a specific ethos and abiding by strict standards; and standards, are a cornerstone of our Army.  All that we do as an organization is focused on meeting defined standards.  It is a profession that allows wide discretion to its leaders, whether conducting combat operations or making routine decisions in garrison.  This discretion incurs great responsibility on each member of the Profession of Arms…a responsibility to regulate itself and hold to strict standards. 

Having said this, I am interested in hearing your feedback on the changes to our uniforms.  Do you believe we are headed in the right direction?  If not, what would you recommend?

CSM Johndrow


24 Comments on "Professionals embracing uniform changes"

  1. jahailey March 9, 2012 at 2:55 am ·

    There’s a popular phrase frequently uttered in the black community “leave well enough alone.” The phrase basically means do change and be satisfied with the present status. Although this phrase is not always applicable since adjustments are very much necessary in all parts of life, I believe this phrase essentially captures my thoughts on frequent, rapid and persistent changes to Army uniforms. Generally, I believe change is good and indeed necessary in our profession. However, at no time has the Army uniform been more convenient for Soldiers. In fact, the entire purpose of the removable tape was to avoid the cost associated with sewing every new addition and accolade adjustment to the uniform. Personally, I find it extremely convenient to attach what is necessary to my ACU and quickly depart for work or school as necessary.

    Keeping up with the frequent and relentless desires and particulars of Soldiers is exhausting. I recall a nearly a decade ago when the ACU was introduced, there was signification hope and that change had finally come. Then the discuss quickly move to the beret once ACUs were formally introduced. Last year, thankfully, the Army returned to the patrol cap. Now, we are ready yet again to introduce more enlightening ideas.

    I believe it is time for a moment of reflection and appreciation for the changes that have occurred in Army uniforms over the last several years and patiently wait for the next major change. As Robert Caro noted in his book Master of the Senate, frequent and rapid change even of good measure is inconsistent with prudence, good judgement and stability. Let us as professionals enjoy the moment.

    Jermaine A. Hailey
    MAJ, LG
    CGSC-ILE Class 12-01 SG12A

  2. fadkinson March 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm ·

    This is a great discussion in a time when our budget will require scrutiny in all areas. For myself, this is a practical and cost-effective issue. I agree we are heading in the right direction, but would take it a bit farther. This is a time to be practical and efficient. Velcro is not practical because it catches debris and patches catch getting in and out of vehicles or bumping into someone. I recommend all velcro is removed and patches are worn. The only exception is the velcro flag patch. In garrison the red, white, and blue. In combat, the IR flag.

    The current ACU pattern is poor camouflage. We need one multi-cam pattern and that is it. I have worn this uniform in Afghanistan and Iraq, the pattern is ineffective in an urban or rural environment. It only is camouflaged after wearing it for two weeks in a sand storm! We will look back at this one day and shake our head.

    Additionally, I would recommend a structural design change to the ACU. For the coat- a thin stretch material under the arms and behind the shoulders. This will allow upper body mobility and comfort. For the pants- Stretch material in the groin and below the belt-line on the rump. This would allow more mobility and prevent tearing. These uniforms already exist with some forces and are not only more comfortable and effective, but extremely practical.

    MAJ Frank Adkinson
    ILE Class 12-01
    Staff Group 8C

  3. harryharry March 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm ·

    I agree with the change of sewing on tapes and badges, however, I hope that no future ammendments are made to the sewing policy.

    I appreciate being able to purchase a uniform and not having to spend an additional $50 for new tapes and sewing as with the BDUs.

    MAJ Al Harris
    ILE Class 2012-01
    Staff Group 8C

  4. johnp March 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm ·

    Although the combat uniform change from BDU to ACU appears as a welcome efficiency-based change in terms of comfort and upkeep, I think it fails in the two areas of durability and professional image. However, since the ability for comments from the field to reach leaders so much more quickly with the proliferation of social media, I believe that the issue of durability may be corrected with transition to multi-cam.

    The other issue of professional “starched and polished” military image being gone with no-starch uniforms and no-polish boots. Although we sacrificed image for efficiency, the ACU IS a combat uniform, so I’m alll for more efficiency, so long as the image is still relatively professional.

    Finally, I (and everyone I know) heartily welcome the recent changes allowing sew-on nametapes, badges, and rank on the ACU, and dropping of the beret as the default headgear outside of ceremonies (win for the CSA). Loss of metal badges and velcro nametapes adds a distinctly sharper image to the ACU…although I’m uncertain if sew-on skill badges are allowed in a combat environment based on current guidance.

    Oh, and I also agree with John Turner’s perspective.

  5. johnturner February 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm ·

    Although I applaud the SMA and CSA for polling members of the force about uniform changes, I think we are still missing the boat on a few things. In a time of limited resources, I am still unsure why the DoD does not force services to adpot one combat uniform. Every service has spent money researching which uniform would work best in each environment. I understand that services want to retain individuality, but at what costs? For instance, if the Marine Corps already did research and their multi-cam pattern is the best(and I’m not saying that it is), why are we spending additional dollars that could be used elsewhere. In some areas, the DoD has seen the light and combined training of specific MOSs because they are essentially the same. A good example of this is at Fort Sam Houston with the Medical Education and Training Center. This state of the art facility trains medical personnel from all services in one location instead of each service doing the same training at different place.

    Although I personally do not like the physical fitness uniform, I have to ask if I think it is bad enough that we need to change it and spend more money transitioning to a new one. Are we shooting for cosmetic changes or changes to address issues on quality or effectiveness?

    As far as the ASU, moving from one uniform to cover Class A, B, and Dress duties is nice. I know some complain about the look of the uniform, but I don’t think that you can make everyone happy all the time anyway. No matter what uniform we switch to, someone will not like it.

    MAJ John Turner
    CGSC 12-01
    SG 14B

  6. markg February 12, 2012 at 6:59 am ·

    Application and utilitiy are the fundamentals for establishing a proper uniform in today’s changing battlefield environment and Army. Selection of the ACU and ASU came at time when change in the Army was more reactive rather than proactive. Efforts to minimize the number of uniforms and make them more flexible indicated good initiative but did not completely meet the mark. Since combat operations are the primary function of the Army it should have a uniform that applies to those environments. As a result we have an ACU that works in garrison but does not provide the required camouflage applicable in both desert and in woodland environments. Additionally, we have an ASU that serves to eliminate the Class A uniform but does not provide the utility to embellish the character and luster historically illustrated in functions such as funerals, change of commands and promotion ceremonies. Lack of ASU unit sleeve patches and the shoulder rank and crests has diminished the military authority resemblance so strongly shown on the Class A uniform. Adhering to the standards imposed upon us are the marching orders we must follow, but when the conditions expose themselves to emulate we have lost the bubble on putting our Soldiers in the proper uniform, specifically for combat operations, adjustments should be considered. Fortunately with the recent change in our Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) it was recognized that uniform changes should be solicited from all the ranks. Results from this survey indicated the awareness of the new CSA and the intuition to get it from the people within the Army. This surely is a step in the right direction and I hope that changes in the current Army uniform inventory continue to be analyzed and adjusted. For the ACU I believe a change to the Multi-Camouflage Uniform (MCU) should be made across the Army to include the recent “flexibilities” afforded to the ACU this past summer. For the ASU I believe authorization for select service functions should be continued indefinitely for the Class A uniform.
    Mark Giacovelli
    MAJ, SF
    ILE Class 12-01, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Staff Group 15B

  7. jsoong February 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm ·

    From a Navy perspective, I’m glad to see the Army go back to wearing the patrol cap and making the uniform more functional. However, I would like to see all services go back to wearing the same utility uniform with their own specific service badges, etc. I know this is off-topic, but I still don’t understand or agree to all the arguments for each service to have their own utility uniform.

  8. jkabrick February 2, 2012 at 9:47 pm ·

    These are great changes. However, one important issue that wasn’t addressed is the digital colors of the ACU. These uniforms glow at night. As a profession we are tactical experts. Then why do we wear ACU uniforms that do not complement our line of work? I know changing would cost a lot of money, especially during a time of recession but it is definitely worth the investment.
    MAJ Joven Kabrick
    MAJ, AG
    ILE Class 2012-01, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Staff Group 14D

  9. hopk9597 January 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm ·

    To me, pride is a key component of serving our country. The recent uniform changes have restored much of that pride that was missing due to Soldiers feeling specific items, specifically the beret, made them feel less of a Soldier. As a leader, I always enforced the standard and required Soldiers to toe the line but I also always believed the beret was not the key to building esprit-de-corps. I think a key to being a professional is that we must follow and enforce unpopular rules and regulations. For me, looking good and having pride in being a Soldier go hand in hand.

    MAJ Justin Hopkins
    12-01, SG23B

    • hopk9597 February 12, 2012 at 7:47 pm ·

      For me, looking good and having pride in being a Soldier goes hand in hand. To me, pride is a key component of serving our country and being a leader. I joined the military before September 11th; we as a nation had pride in our Armed Forces but it was nothing compared to the pride felt after. In turn, Soldier’s pride increased after September 11th; after September 11th, changes made to the uniform reduced some of that pride in being a Soldier. The recent uniform changes have restored much of that pride that had gone missing since September 11th due to Soldiers feeling specific items, specifically the beret, made them feel less of a Soldier. The original berets – maroon for Airborne, black for Rangers and green for Special Forces – were given to those communities in recognition of becoming part of a specialized force and achieving an increased standard above that required by the regular Army. When GEN Shinseki’s decision came down for every Soldier to wear the beret, the same pride and camaraderie that was inherent in those special communities was supposed to transfer to the regular force. Unfortunately, this decision created significant issues for Soldiers and leaders. As a leader, enforcing the standard and requiring Soldiers to toe the line is a key component of our job as professionals, but I also always believed the beret was not the key to building esprit-de-corps. Soldiers that looked passable in a patrol cap looked ridiculous in the beret. I think a key to being a professional is that we must follow and enforce unpopular rules and regulations and shelve our personal opinions. This definitely goes beyond uniforms; short of an order being illegal, immoral, or against regulation, our jobs are to enforce the standard and require our Soldiers to do what is directed and ordered. Uniforms are one of the easiest ways to alter the opinion of an external observer towards a unit; imagine walking into a unit where no Soldier is in the correct uniform or the NCOs or junior officers looked like they picked their uniforms out of a pile of clothes on the floor. That external observer’s opinion of the unit will be impacted before they learn anything about the unit itself. Overall, the recent changes have contributed to redeeming Soldier’s pride in their uniform and their service and have been welcomed my Soldier’s and leaders alike. However, should another unpopular uniform change come about, as leaders we must internalize our personal reactions and enforce the standard.

  10. jimhill January 13, 2012 at 1:06 am ·

    Standards are what define our professionalism. Simply put, adhering to and enforcing the established standards is discipline. A unit that enforces the standard can be seen by anyone. In early 2004, I was assigned to a unit that required subordinates to wear face paint while conducting pre-deployment training even though units were not using it in theater due to heat concerns, etc. When the BDE CSM was asked “why they were doing it, shouldn’t they train as they would fight”, he simply replied that it was the standard established by the BDE CDR and that if the unit was disciplined enough to follow that standard then they would be disciplined enough to follow every standard and would have a successful deployment. So not only should every Soldier, regardless of rank or position or whether or not they agree with the standard, should first be the example by following set standards and should require the same of others. YES, this means that when they see sub-standard behavior, they should correct it (absolutely not in an unprofessional manner by no means). As we transition back to a “garrison” Army and embrace the cutbacks on the horizon, I expect that simple discipline to follow the establish standards will regain the same priority as it did when I entered the service over 2 decades ago.

    Jim Hill
    MAJ, MI
    CGSC, Class 12-01, SG24C

  11. socrates January 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm ·

    I would like to see the branch insignia return to the uniform. Branch matters. When I’m speaking with a fellow officer, seeing their branch insignia on their uniform lets me know their area of expertise. It also adds esprit de corps. I remember when we wore our insignia, and I was always proud of my branch.

    Dennis L Shelden
    MAJ, LG (OD)
    ILE Class 12-01, SG 24C, Ft Leavenworth, KS

  12. reconscout December 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm ·


    As long as I have been enlisted in the Army, the treatment of Officers has never depended on what branch insignia is on, or not on, the uniform. The rank demands military customs and courtesy, regardless of what occupation they do.
    I agree with the posts about the change to the patrol cap as the standard head gear for the ACU as being a great idea, and the change to the Multi Cam.
    I enlisted in the Army back in 1996, where, the uniform was standard across the force, from head to toe, with regards to dress and appearance, in accordance with AR 670-1.
    Since the combat deployments to the Middle East, we have kind of thrown out the standard of what we should look like, what our uniforms should have or not have, and how we look as professionals has suffered from it, in my opinion.
    There are soldiers wearing boots by Nike, Caterpillar, and other non-standard combat boot manufacturers, that have been led to the belief that there are no standards for what the U.S. Army can and cannot wear. This needs to change.
    We need to get back to the Professional Soldier with a standard appearance, regardless of where we are, or what we are doing. Standards enforce discipline, and discipline is key to Professionalism.

  13. mfortenberry November 2, 2011 at 5:20 pm ·

    I agree that it was time to modify the regulations on the ACU. I hated pin-on badges. they always got caught up in everything. However, before we can begin a conversation about branch insignia we need to address what might be the biggest problem in our army. That problem is the epidemic of overweight soldiers and officers. It is appalling to be honest. It is down right embarrassing and a pain to the eyes to see so many soldiers and officers spewing out of their uniforms. WE NEED STANDARDS AGAIN!!!!

  14. ccaudill October 31, 2011 at 1:12 pm ·

    I like the changes with the current uniform. Love the boots and no startch policy. I look forward to the multi cam uniform and additonal changes like buttons instead of velcro on the leg pockets.

    Charles Caudill
    MAJ, FA
    Class 12-01
    Staff Group 8C

  15. rhodes October 18, 2011 at 1:12 am ·

    That’s a great point about the Branch insignia, if chaplains have their branch on the uniform to set them apart then I think that other branches should be able to do the same. I would like to know who I am talking with or dealing with when addressing fellow officers. The Army has many traditions and just because something seams like an unnecessary norm does not mean that it should be quickly tossed aside.

  16. moore1492 October 6, 2011 at 2:41 am ·

    I think it was a good idea to allow branch insignia to be worn on the uniform again. Soldiers take pride in their specific branch and should be proud to wear it. Esprit de corps begins with the identity of a fellowship or common bond. I’m not saying that we don’t have this already as Army soldiers but branches have their lineage and history and are vital in military history. The most important concern is not what’s on the outside of the uniform but the person wearing the uniform. If that person is not an example of Army values, then it doesn’t matter what’s sewn on the outside.

    Larry Moore
    MAJ, LG
    CLASS 11-02 SG-1A

  17. rhodes October 6, 2011 at 1:58 am ·

    I agree that as professionals and especially as leaders, that we must fully accept and embrace change; however, my bigger concern is that too many Soldiers forget that our uniform is more than work clothes and have lost pride in their appearance. Whether on post or off, whether in a classroom or a formation, many have become complacent and as leaders we must set the example. I admit that I’ve let my guard down occasionally but no one seemed to notice. We need to notice and remind each other because what the individual Soldier does reflects upon us all.

    MAJ Dan Rhodes

  18. enag98 September 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm ·

    I agree with CSM Johndrow that the statement of “As professional Soldiers, we are obligated to accept, embrace, adhere to and enforce standards outlined by regulations and directives. “ Too often in the Army we not only allow for our Soldiers to complain openly about Army polices but many of our leaders also complain in front of their troops which is simply not professional. I believe the Army leaders in the last ten years have done a pretty good job with the reviews from the field when it comes to uniform changes and policies. Let publications such as the Army Times run articles about “how much troops hate such and such” they need to sell subscriptions and as we have seen if there is enough noise about an issue the leaders do take notice. As leaders we need to set and maintain the standard and remain professional at all times.
    -MAJ Broderick

  19. railsback September 16, 2011 at 12:16 am ·

    Agree wholeheartedly with the beret change and think it’s okay to sew on name tapes etc as long as commanders don’t make it the “standard” and will Soldiers into sewing on when Velcro is perfectly acceptable. I’m proud of my branch and my badges but at this point in my career I don’t need street credit. I choose not to wear my ORB on my uniform. MAJ Coerper makes an excellent point about DXing uniforms in theater without the need to spend additional money for sewing. I love not paying $6 per uniform for starching – the ACUs really are functional with zippers and Velcro and who can say they miss the black boots with hours of spit shinning wasted?

    On the ASU – love the way it looks compared to the old As but hate the pants for the women’s uniform. What a mistake! The pants are so awful and look completely unprofessional. I would like to see dark pants (like GOs) and a better cut – lower waist is fine. Until then, I’ll stick to the skirt – looks much more professional. I would like to see us move into the 21st century and make pantyhose optional. Very glad the women’s shirt is no longer a tuck-in, much more flattering to the female figure.

    The Army’s leaders are listening and our Soldiers continue to benefit – thank you for posting this discussion. I know we will continue to improve with time, effort and opportunities to make candid comments.

    MAJ Greta Railsback

  20. Michael Coerper September 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm ·

    I agree with the above two comments in favor of bringing back branch insignia on our uniforms, and removing them from the center of my chest.

    However, I believe that the Velcro patches have a very valid function. During deployment, when our combat uniforms get the most wear, I was able to DX a destroyed uniform and get new ones. I didn’t have to go pay $20 to get all my required items sewn on, I just moved the patches over. That one day sold me on the good idea for Velcro. I am not overly concerned about appearing “professional” in my combat uniform. These clothes are designed to get dirty, ripped, and take a beating. I am overjoyed with the idea that I don’t have to starch my combat uniform.

    I also believe that the 5 years of ACUs have changed a mind set about badges on uniforms. I see many Soldiers simply not wearing their skill badges on their uniform anymore. I believe that due to the combat experience the vast majority of our Soldier’s possessing now, the old practice of basing your opinion on what someone wears on their uniform is reduced.

    The Army is moving in the right direction with our uniforms, and I look forward to the new combat uniforms in the future.

    MAJ, FA
    ILE Class 12-01, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Staff Group 11D

  21. tturner September 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm ·

    As a former citizen soldier of the Vietnam era, I was appalled at the appearance of the black beret (and maroon and brown) as standard wear even with class A’s (do you still use that term?). Going back to the patrol cap for battle uniform is a welcome idea and I hope service caps become the standard again for the new blue “class A” uniform. Not only does its absence detract from the look of the uniform, on its own, it really detracts from the uniform’s look relative to the other services. Also, I agree that the velcro ought to go so patches can go back on the shoulder where they belong. Finally, rank and branch insignia ought ot be up on the collar where people can easily see them. We have a small Army installation nearby and when I see officers, especially, I never know what branch they are. To me, it’s just irritating, but to a soldier I would think it is important information. Who am I talking to here about artillery fires, an artillery officer or a quartermaster? Do I always have to ask? Obvious rank and branch insignia to me are a no-brainer. Oh, and I’m no fan of the battle uniform being the apparent uniform of the day for almost all occasions. I’ve seen Army generals giving national interviews in combat uniform. I’d say, dress it up a bit, guys, you’re on tv! The excuse I’ve heard for this is that someone made the decision that this would show the public that the Army was at war. Frankly, that’s lame. We’ve been in a lot of wars and have had the class to show the public that the U. S. Army can put out sharp looking soldiers. Congrats on the good moves.

    T. Turner

  22. pkhinshaw August 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm ·

    I whole heartedly concur with MAJ Weiss’ suggestion to return to wearing our branch insignia on oue ACUs. The decision behind the removal of the branch insignia seemed to be rooted in the belief that we are all officers and leaders, so there is no need to distinguish between our branches. If you are a special branch, you know this premise is NOT true! Whenever I am in ASUs/Class A uniform and people notice that I’m a JAG officer, I get stopped, pulled aside, and asked a host of legal questions. These people are seizing the opportunity to resolve an issue because I’m in their immediate vicinity This simply does not happen when I’m in ACUs. These same people may have procrasticanted and allowed their personal legal affairs to laspe while they were too busy caring for their Soldiers’ needs over their own. When other offiers/NCOs are able to immediately identify my special skill set, it makes me an more effective enabler for the command and invidivual Soldiers who I encounter outside the office setting. On the flip side, wearing branch insignia enables me to easily identify the people I need to talk to whenever I enter a TOC or new environment. If I need to speak with a logistics officer, or PAO, or the signal officer, I don’t need to run around looking for them. I suspect the decision to remove our branch insignia was really constructed by those who were unhappy with their own branch choices or felt that they didn’t get the same amount of respect as the maneuver branches. We all bring special skills a capabilities to the fight. It is a fallacy to believe that removing our branch insignia from our uniform adds anything other than confusion.

    MAJ Paty Hinshaw
    MAJ, JA
    ILE Class 2012-01, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Staff Group 14D

  23. masonweiss August 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm ·

    Professionals embracing uniform changes

    I believe we are definitely headed in the right direction with the recent uniform changes and those changes were long overdue. So many Soldiers have already written about the beret that there is no need to rehash those comments. Suffice it to say that I am glad it’s gone and am impressed the new leadership got rid of it so quickly after changing command. Going back to sew on rank, name tape, and U.S. Army is also a welcome relief. It felt ridiculous and unprofessional wearing Velcro name tapes for all these years–as if my name or branch of service was going to change. There are several more changes we should also make. First, put our rank back on our collars along with our branch insignias. Wearing rank on our chest has no history with our military and looks silly. Bringing back branch insignia, among other things, would help better identify our colleagues. Finally, we need to ditch the UCP pattern and go with MULTICAM or another pattern that actually works. The only place I’ve ever seen where the ACU uniform provides camouflage was on the couches at the restaurant at the Fort Sill golf course.
    Mason S. Weiss
    MAJ, JA
    ILE Class 11-002, Redstone Arsenal, Staff Group C

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