Archive: Uniform reform


The camouflage uniform has not been an unqualified success. While they certainly let the wearer “feel” more soldierly and therefore contribute to morale, they generally do not obscure the shape, shadow, silhouette, etc. or movement of the wearer any more than a monochrome uniform.

To break those require the wearer to add twigs, leaves, grass or bits of material and camouflage netting. This has long been standard practice with snipers, who routinely wear so-called “ghillie” suits in the field. In addition, the material military-grade camouflage wear are made from is expensive and a habit of accepting the offer of the lowest bidder leads to acquisitions of suspect quality, particularly regarding the dye used. Many such uniforms tend to fade fast, leaving them near-monochrome after a short time anyway. Another cause of cost is the habit of doping these uniforms in a variety of chemicals to proof them against chemical and biological attack or shield the wearer against infrared and thermal vision devices. The dope is invariably destroyed when the uniform, worn during training and in unit lines is ironed.
Some militaries, including the British Army and the Royal Marines (RM) ban the ironing of camouflage uniforms as a result. As a “sop” to sergeant majors, the Army and RM issue troops a simple, monochrome uniform for squarebashing, training, wearing in the lines — and ironing. Since it is not a field dress, it is not doped or of camouflage print, radically dropping the price. The un-ironed field wear is worn in the field and may now even have tabs for tying so-called “scribbing” as the material and camouflage netting is known. Some uniform manufacturers now even design and make lightweight uniforms with built-in scribbing.
In addition, the need to “dope” all uniforms can also be questioned. If there is a need in a particular theatre, can uniforms earmarked for distribution there not be doped at factory or depot level or even in the field?
In these cost-conscious days, when claims of “no money” abound, militaries such as the SA National Defence Force, that use camouflage uniforms and even overalls for all purposes may wish to reconsider.

Date: 2003