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The Army Combat Uniform ACU

The Army Combat Uniform ACU

U.S Armed Forces wear different Amy Combat uniforms depending on the branches they are situated in. Each department has got its type of uniform, which defines its attributes and qualities. It ranges from the camouflage pattern, the design to the kind of material used.

Originally, the camouflage pattern was used for military uniforms. Today, the pattern is being used to make many clothing designs like hats, boots, t-shirts, trousers, etc. Below, let’s look at what makes ACU-camouflage unique to each military branch and its usefulness.

What is ACU Camouflage?

ACU camouflage has been primarily applied in the United States Military uniform. It was developed as a Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), which combined green, tan, and grey in the camo pattern. It works well in most environments, including desert, urban, and woodland settings.

UCA Camouflage Pattern

The complete uniform is usually accompanied by a t-shirt, pants, tan military boots, a jacket, and a headgear determined by the commander in charge. Apart from the U.S Army, the Air Force, U.S Space Force, U.S Navy, and the U.S Department of defense wear the camouflage uniform.

How Military Camouflage Works

Camouflage clothing has two essential elements that help conceal a person, which are pattern and color. The material is usually colored with dull hues and should match the surrounding environment. For a snowy climate, the uniform is white and grey. For the jungle, it is green with some brown patches, while for the desert, the soldiers use a range of tan colors.

The reason for using these colors is to destruct the enemy at war. This is possible because the brain naturally connects the stripes in the uniform with trees, leaves, and the ground. In turn, this affects an individual’s perception, and it might be hard for them to notice a thing.

History of the Universal Camouflage Pattern

The camouflage pattern was not well utilized during the early wars. Most soldiers died because the enemy forces could easily spot them. Camouflage became useful when tactics changed, and technology improved. Its invention was to protect the army men from being seen by their enemies during war.

Camouflage and Nature

Nature must have been the reason that triggered the invention of camouflage in military uniforms. By creating uniforms that match with the surrounding of the land, it helped most soldiers disguise their appearance.

An American painter Abbott Thayer and two zoologists helped transform camouflage into techniques that will be useful in the military. The application of this technique meant that army men could hide their identity and movements while at war.

Frogskin Camouflage Pattern

This was not only used in uniforms but was also applied in rifles, cars, ships, planes, etc. It was then later on applied to other branches in the military hence the name universal camouflage pattern.

The Change

Before the invention of modern rifles, militaries preferred bright shades of colors. For example, in 1898, during the Spanish- American war, troops wore blue coats, which made them more visible to their enemies. They had to smear mud on their coats to be less conspicuous.

Then in 1902, the U.S Army had to change the summer uniform to brown khaki. They also used a camouflage color for winter, which is dull and greenish-brown in color. The blue uniform was then kept being used for other occasions.


During the World War I Era

With the rapid change of technology and the steel industry’s growth, major armies worked on developing low-visibility components to use during the war. Most militaries first used camouflage techniques to hide their locations and equipment, such as machine guns.

In around 1914 French organized a group of camoufleurs who are specialists in camouflaging. This group taught others to use the tactic to hide their gears, erase any tracks, and paint their weapons to blend in with the surrounding environment.

The Spread of Camouflage Technique

As world war I progressed, camouflage became popular in many military camps. It spread to the seas, deserts, and woodlands. Soldiers also came up with unique tactics to capture their enemies, like using false trees to hide. With the popularization, other creative designs were made that wholly disguised the appearance of the soldiers.

The Second World War

Before the second world war, militaries had adequately prepared themselves. Camouflage was used more widely than in the previous wars, and soldiers were trained on it. The allies that won during this war owed their success to camouflage.

A good example is in Vietnam, where they used solid olive-green uniforms (Boonie suit) that matched well with the surrounding. Although some camouflage colors were dropped, better ones were invented, and all the patterns served a purpose.

Leaf Camouflage

After the war, research into camouflage continued, and in the late 1970s, four-color patterns were used. That is, black, brown, green, and khaki become the new standard U.S camouflage colors.

Woodland Camouflage

Modern Camouflage

Today technology has progressed to another level, and camouflage is being used almost everywhere. The high-tech camouflage can conceal body heat from enemy sensors. It can also trigger fibre-optics to match a fabric dynamic to its surrounding.

So far, technologists are progressing to create a camouflage that will bend light waves to render people and objects invisible.

Currently, the army is planning to face out UCP and use the Operational Camouflage Pattern. The pattern is said to extend beyond Afghanistan, and it will use a palette of muted green, light beige, and dark brown color.


U.S Military Camouflage Patterns

Below are some of the most common camouflage patterns used by various United States military branches.

Universal camouflage pattern

This pattern is currently used by the U.S Army and is also referred to as digicam (Digital Camouflage). The design is used because it proved to provide concealment in many different environments.

Universal Camouflage Pattern

Navy Working Uniform

This uniform uses a multi-color digital print. It is made in three variants: blue with some grey pattern, a woodland digital pattern, and a digital desert pattern. Sailors and shipboards wear it depending on the environment in which they are situated.

Navy Working Uniform

OCP Pattern

The operational camouflage pattern is worn by both the army and the air force. It is usually for the soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. The uniform is closely related to Multicam, but OCP has a linear horizontal pattern and is originally code named Scorpion.


Airman Battle Uniform (ABU)

This is a U.S camouflage combat uniform worn by Air Force military group. It has a distinctive tiger stripe and is almost similar to the ACU. The uniform is offered in 50-50 nylon-cotton fabric, which is suitable for winter and summer.

Airman Battle Uniform

 MARPAT Uniform

The marine pattern uniforms come in two variants, the woodland, and desert pattern. It is more effective than the standard uniform because it has a multi-scale camouflage pattern. It is formed of small rectangular pixels of color. The uniform is unique because it mimics the texture and rough boundaries found in natural settings.


 Woodland Pattern

This was the default camouflage pattern used by United States soldiers since 1981 until nearly the present day. Although the uniform has been faced out, the U.S Navy maintains its use for specific organizations and units.



The full Army Combat Uniform consists of a few components to make it complete. Here are the essential parts of the uniform.


A two-inch nylon belt usually accompanies the combat trousers, and it is distinguished with two forward-tilted thigh storage pockets. The design features Velcro pouches. It also consists of an elastic drawstring and a Velcro fastener for closure. Those made of flame-resistant materials are mostly issued for use in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In 2010 the Velcro feature was removed and replaced with three buttons. The first two buttons are standard, and the purpose is the same as for BDU trouser cargo pockets. The one-button located at the end provides extra volume and more load to be carried in the cargo pockets.

When it comes to belt design, width has doubled, and there are 8 of them, unlike the past when they were 7. Also, the waist adjustment string has been removed and equipped with a Velcro waistband adjuster. It now becomes easier to adjust the trouser according to the waist size.

Additionally, the pants have been equipped with a multi-layered design around the knee area. This allows solders to incorporate and insert hard-type knee pads securely. Lastly, the cuffs at the bottom have been replaced with Velcro adjusters and no longer use drawstrings.

Multicam BDU Trouser


Also, sometimes referred to as the blouse. It initially used hooks-and-loop-backed attachments to protect items like name tapes and U.S flag patch. They only accepted pin-on skill badges for wear, but no more than 5 of them at a go.

Later on, regulations were changed, and there was no mixing of sew-on and pin on budges. Despite this, the 5-budges rule remained constant, but at the same time, the name tapes and rank insignia were sewn-on at the preference of the wearer.

ACU-jacket is supposed to be worn in a manner where its lower part is between the bottom of the pockets and should be at the top of cargo pockets. It also has a three-pen pocket on the left side of the arm jacket, and the front closure is zippered. Apart from that, the cuffs and elbow pads also use the hook-and-loop closure design.

Multicam Jacket


The Army Combat Uniform must be worn with a headgear, especially during the war. This is to prevent severe head damage as it has a cushion that absorbs the shock. The patrol cap is straight on the sides, has a flat top, and has a double-thick bill with an internal pocket. The name tape is usually worn at the back of the headgear.

The cap should also match the uniform worn by the solder, or sometimes the commander in charge will authorize the kind of cap soldiers in the field will wear. For example, in the garrison, the tan helmets are worn by paratroopers, and the green berets are worn by special forces.

 US Patrol Cap Multicam


The arm combat shirt was initially sand-colored. A Tan-499 T-shirt was then recommended in 2019, and since then, it became the sole authorized T-shirt upon completion.

US arm shirt


The standard military uniform was worn with tan Army Combat boots together with olive drab cotton socks. They are Army boots accessible for difficult terrain or cold weather. The boots must comply with the following rules;

  • Must be without a zipper
  • Must have metal cleats and side tabs
  • Contain tan rough sides and rubber outsoles
  • Its height should be between eight to ten inches.

 Lowa Combat Boot high

Military Tactical Equipment

Armed forces use the tactical gear for protection during times of war, and it is part of the military uniform and has got its purposes. It gives soldiers the confidence to face difficult situations effectively and with less risk. Some of the most common military gears include; flashlight, bullet-proof vest, pocket tools, night vision goggles, helmets, zoom-ready rifles, etc.

The gear helps to defend soldiers in case an enemy appears suddenly, especially when they are on a battlefield. The good thing is that the equipment is usually equipped with a camouflage design and is rarely detected by the enemies.

Multicam Equipment

Although not all gears are safe to use, and some may not function properly. The right tactical gear needs to be selected carefully. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the best gear to use.


It is a good idea to look for easy equipment to carry since one will have to carry many things to help them survive when they are away.


The right gear should be customizable. It should be able to be modified to fit the task that a soldier wants to perform. It should perform more than one task. For example, if it is a tool, it should open a food can and cut ropes or traps.


While choosing the right gear, make sure it is useful and performs its purpose as expected. Do not only look at the design. Try it out first to make sure it’s working correctly.


This is another essential factor to consider. Users should avoid buying very cheap equipment as they may not function well. The right quality gear will serve well for the period an individual will be away, and it will not disappoint.

Easy to Use and Wear

Something less complicated will save time. Choose something that can easily be worn and doesn’t require long instructions to follow to use it.

Benefits of tactical gear

Apart from protecting, buying special military gear will be advantageous, especially if on the battlefield. It has become a trend today, and even people outside the military use them to protect themselves. Although civilians may never be in a situation where they will be required to wear tactical-gear from head to toe, some few items like watches, bag packs, pocket knives might be of help.

It is practical. The good thing about having tactical-gear is that it can be used at the spot in case of danger. Keeping the gear close during the war is the most important thing because it will perform its specified function. Besides, the gears help you perform quick tasks when you are alone. 

Also, the gears help to reduce hardships. For example, if one needs to climb a mountain, a rope or a knife can be of good help. Another instance is during the night. Instead of stumbling in the dark, a night vision goggle will assist in improving the situation. Sleeping gears are also helpful and save you the trouble of setting a tent each time you go to the jungle.

Effectiveness of Camouflage Military Uniforms

The use of camouflage patterns has been very effective. The testing phase specifically focused on detection and blending. They wanted something unique that could hardly be detected in the surroundings and could blend easily with the environment.


The army decided to settle on the strategy that considered only three colors, the woodlands or jungle pattern, the desert, and the other pattern that would be suitable for most environments. For the jungle, they agreed that darker brown and green colors were the best to use, while for the desert, tan and sand colors are the suitable choice. Lastly, a transitional pattern would be best to conceal solders in most surroundings.

This strategy has not only been effective in military combat uniforms but military bases to hide their location during training or preparation for war.


The history of the ACU-camouflage is fascinating. Over the years, the U.S military has tested each uniform’s effectiveness and has come up with the best solution. Even though many uniforms were dropped during the trial and error process, the standard Army Combat Uniform serves its purpose. The same pattern was used in vehicles, rifles, and some tactical-gears to help disguise a solder’s location.

The best part is that the patterns used in designing the uniforms were made to match the surrounding environment. Apart from the uniforms, tactical-gears contribute a lot to many soldiers’ safety and increase survival chances. Today camouflage is used in various places, including to hide blemishes in objects and even people.

Army Combat Uniform on Amazon

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