When I began this blog a few months ago I intended to write a post about the multi-cam uniform, the acquisition of which was an event widely celebrated by our platoon. Having been busy getting ready for deployment, I didn't get around to the subject at the time, but seeing some of my fellow soldiers still sporting the crappy old ACU's has introduced the issue back to the front of my attention.
The problem with the ACU has always been in its concept of being a universal camoflague. Its a nice idea in the abstract, universal camoflage, just as
or a zero-calorie snickers bar is a great idea. Its also totally impossible to put into practice. The purpose of camoflauge after all is to create a visual likeness between an object and its environment. There cannot be a universal camoflauge because there is no universal environment. Some places have snow, others are deserts, some still are forests... and these look nothing alike. So to say the ACU blends in equally well everywhere is to say it blends in equally poorly.
Another feature of the ACU which I dislike is the pattern. I mean, seriously. Pixels? Pixels!? Wearing the ACU made me feel less like a soldier and more like a charachter from a super-nintendo video game.
So why did the Army ever bring about the ACU, anyway? One reason was that a single camo pattern would limit the amount of uniforms a soldier had to posess, thereby sparing the army and the defense industry the hassle of producing different types. Its a decent consideration, no doubt, but it misses the point. Its not like many soldiers are going to all different sorts of places. How many people have an antartica campaign medal? So have a "Foresty" uniform in the multi-cam and a "deserty" uniform for wear in Iraq (or libya). If soldiers dont go to Iraq then don't assign them the desert uniform.
I expect that the Army will stay with the ACU for the time being, partly because the economy is dry and partly because the army can be stubborn about these things. A quote from GK Chesterton, the best Catholic writer of the twentieth century, seems relevant here. Describing the difference between the two principal ideologies of his day, he wrote: "The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected". Often it seems like the Army is ran like a perfect synthesis between the two. It makes rather arbitary and hasty changes and then, once those changes have been firmly established, insists that to undo them would be to violate some long standing tradition.
There is hope, though. I can testify to the fact that the multi-cam pattern is the business and Im grateful to be wearing this in country. To recite yet another dead British guy, perhaps Churchill had a point when he said: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."