Leadership: Pink And Green Forever

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March 25, 2021: The U.S. Army continues to tinker with its uniforms, especially the non-combat ones. In early 2021 another update on uniform wear guidelines, the first in four years, was revealed. There were no momentous changes, as occurred back in 2017. The 2021 modifications for the new Class A (non-combat) AGSU (Army Green Service Uniform) uniform including new rules for wearing a unit patch (usually a divisional patch) on the right arm representing the unit a soldier served with in wartime. On the left arm of the was the current organization unit patch.

The 2017 change recognizes the many troops who served in combat zones that were not officially war zones. It was also recognized that many troops, and their spouses, wanted a return of the name tag on the Class A uniform. This was dropped for the AGSU but it was later pointed out that the absence of name tags on World War II Class A (pink and green) uniforms was seen as a problem and the name tag was added when the Green Class As arrived in the 1950s. Before World War II the army was so small that there was no urgent need for name tags. After World War II the U.S. introduced peacetime conscription for the first time and suddenly the peace time force was always full of people you didn’t know.

Back in 2017 the U.S. Army finally succumbed to decades of pressure to return to World War II style Class A uniforms and, most importantly, return the belt to the Class A uniform jacket. The troops, especially those in the combat jobs, have long complained in surveys, informal discussions and finally the Internet about this. Army leadership noted demand for a change but did it the hard way. Every other alternative, all less popular, were tried before going back to the World War II styles.

The new AGSU looks similar to the U.S. Marine Corps Class A uniforms which, no surprise, changed little since World War II. During World War II the army Class A uniforms were two tone (light brown and green) and nicknamed “pinks and greens”. No one really disliked them and the new “bus driver” Class A uniforms of the 1950s were met with derision and dismay when they became standard in the 1960s.

Prototypes of the neo-World War II uniform showed up by the end of 2017, were approved for everyday use in late 2018 and will be mandatory in 2027, just 13 years after the last new ASU (Army Service Uniform) Class A design became mandatory. The ASU was simply adoption of the long used blue dress uniform.

In 2010 army decided to speed up the replacement of the 1950s green Class A uniform. The "bus driver" dress uniforms (green for the army and a similar blue one for the air force) were OK for the air force but many army personnel despised it. In 2005 the army began looking for a more impressive dress uniform and in 2008 they adopted one. The 2010 "Class A" uniform (or ASU, Army Service Uniform) was simply the current blue "Dress Uniform" (dark blue jacket and light blue pants). By the end 2010, troops graduating from basic training were issued the "dress blues" as their "Class A" uniform. By 2014, the ASU was mandatory. The "Class B" uniform was the dress blue trousers and a white shirt adorned with decorations (ribbons, combat badge and so on). For both enlisted and officers, rank was worn on epaulets. The 2010 uniform "system" was similar to the one the U.S. Marine Corps has been wearing for decades, and that's no accident.

However, the soldiers were not impressed, pointing out that, unless carefully tailored, the 2010 dress uniform was as dumpy looking as the old green one. Where's the damn belt? All this exercise and weight control, since the 1980s and the army can't produce a dress uniform that shows it off. To deal with that, the army ordered that the blue jacket have a more tailored, athletic, cut. There were hints that there may be a belt, someday. Maybe. After much sarcasm, complaining and scathing comments added to official opinion surveys, the army leadership finally figured it out.

All of this was in response to decades of efforts by the troops, to drop the green "Class A" uniform (green jacket and pants, with light brown shirt and tie) and go for something, anything, more impressive. The 2010 ASU Class A uniform was simply the existing dress uniform, with more form fitting tailoring. This uniform, unlike the green Class A's that were introduced in 1954, was based on the 19th century dress uniform. Most enlisted troops do not have the dress blue uniform, because they have to buy it themselves, and that is optional for most troops. By 2014, the old green Class A was phased out completely. Troops received the new blue ones as their green ones wore out. It will be the same drill for the neo-World War II uniforms. The army, as is the custom these days, conducted a survey and found that the troops were still wishing for the World War II style army uniforms. In many respects you could blame it on the marines, who had the good sense to stick with what worked while the army and air force got lost in unwanted and ineffective reforms of what Class A uniforms work best.

Soldiers have had longstanding "uniform envy" issues when it comes to the marines. The USMC has always sported the most impressive dress uniform, and young enlisted marines were glad to spend at least $300 to buy themselves one. The marine "Class A" uniform is also green, but a darker green, and the jacket is worn with a belt. This looks much snappier, and many soldiers have, since the 1980s, suggested something like this for a new army Class A uniform. Many career army types have been campaigning for a spiffier Class A uniform, and something in blue, preferably with a belted jacket. But instead of a new uniform design, the army simply made the 2010 ASU the old dress blues the new Class As instead of paying attention to what the troops had been telling them for decades.

The Class A uniform is not actually worn that much, with most troops wearing BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform, with the camouflage pattern) or the Class A uniform without the jacket, when at work. The BDUs come in several different shades, none of them featuring much green. As a result, after a century, the green is gone. The 2010 reform also eliminated the all-white tropical dress uniform, which was rarely used. The World War II style pinks and greens were adapted for officer and enlisted AGSU Class A uniforms and incorporated suggestions by female troops for the female specific uniforms.

 


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