The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan

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Extreme Camo
by James Dunnigan
January 1, 2010

Infantrymen continue to find new ways to hide themselves on the battlefield. Even before World War I, brightly colored uniforms gave way to ones (green or tan) that better blended into the background. During World War II, camouflage pattern uniforms, and face paint, began to appear. In the last decade, troops have been taking this movement the last mile. A good example of this is the effort to camouflage those items that are still black, or some other metallic color. This is sometimes done with paint, even if commanders disapprove. More often these days, troops use camouflage colored tape. This stuff, however, has to be removed from metal or wood items after a soaking (otherwise rust or rot will set in). Despite that, the tape has many other advantages. It comes in different colors, so when the troops go from forest areas, to deserts to snowy climates, they can continue to camo their weapons and equipment. The tape also makes the equipment quieter (less clanking) and less slippery in the rain. For all these reasons, troops have been particularly eager to put a camo look on their weapons and increasing array of electronic gear.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army continues to make small improvements in its combat uniform (ACUPAT, or Army Combat Uniform camouflage pattern). The army has a web site where troops can report problems, and suggest improvements, for the ACUPAT, and there's been a lot of traffic. The changes may seem minor, but they mean a lot to troops in combat. For example, the number and placement of pockets. This has been changed several times, and now complements the protective vest, and the kind of stuff troops put in the pockets. Then there's the monochrome American flag patch, attached via Velcro, that reacts to infrared light. This makes it easier to positively identify U.S. troops at night, without lighting up the area. There are several other Velcro strips for the attachment of patches and badges. Most of the pockets are closed with Velcro. The knee pads, which greatly reduce knee injuries for infantry, are now inserted in a pants pocket over the knees. Other changes involve the blouse collar ("Chinese" style, to keep crud out) and the closures on the blouse and pants cuffs (also to keep debris out.)

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