WASHINGTON - Military members fighting in Afghanistan will soon see two new test camouflage patterns on the backs of fellow Soldiers.
In September, the Army began shipping uniforms with the "MultiCam" and "Universal Camouflage Pattern-Delta" to two yet-unnamed battalions that will serve rotations in Afghanistan - one pattern each.
Additionally, the Army will provide "ghillie suits," in the MultiCam pattern, to authorized units. Ghillie suits are a type of camouflage clothing designed to resemble heavy underbrush.
Soldiers, about 2,000 in all, will test out the uniforms to see how effective the camouflage patterns are at providing concealment in the varying terrain of Afghanistan.
The Army will gather feedback from Soldiers wearing the uniforms and use that, along with other testing and evaluation, to make a decision to produce and field alternative uniforms and operational clothing and individual equipment to some units serving as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I think we will make decisions in Afghanistan in the January time frame, and also we will have finished the picture study," said Col. William E. Cole, a project manager with PM Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment.
Program Executive Office Soldier, the agency responsible for developing the uniforms, will additionally test the efficacy of several other camouflage patterns in Afghanistan - though those will not be handed out to Soldiers there.
"That will determine what other uniform options they could have in Afghanistan," Cole added. "So to the commanders in Afghanistan, we'll be able to show them the data and say 'here's what we found, different results in different areas with different uniforms, what would you like to do?' And of course we will support the commanders."
Cole said after a decision is made about fielding an optional camouflage pattern uniform bearing that pattern could be available in a relatively short time.
"We'd start fielding the first units easily within six months of the decision," Cole said.
Were new uniforms to be introduced, Cole said, they would be the same as what Soldiers are already wearing - the Army Combat Uniform. The camouflage printed on the fabric would change. And the new uniforms would be an option for commanders - something available were field conditions to warrant it.
"As a material provider, I want to be responsive to the Soldiers I support," Cole said. "I want to give commanders options, I want to be responsive to Soldiers. That is what we were trying to do - we're working to give (them) more options."
The "MultiCam" pattern, one of the two to be issued in Afghanistan, is actually a commercial product and bears similarities to what was featured on the now discontinued Battle Dress Uniform.
The "Universal Camouflage Pattern-Delta," is similar to what Soldiers are wearing now, with the addition of the color "Coyote Brown."