Small Wars Journal

Army, Marine Corps clashing over cammies...

Sun, 06/05/2011 - 5:57pm
... and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is dead wrong on this one. Lance Bacon and Dan Lamothe of The Army Times report on another one of those unnecessary distractions from fighting and wining wars. Key excerpts follow:

... Army officials have said they want soldiers to wear the best possible camouflage — even if that is the MARPAT. But Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent says don't count on it.

The Corps owns the rights to MARPAT and wants to retain it for its own use, Kent said late last year. Marine officials said they have no beef with anyone researching and testing MARPAT, but they want Marines distinguished from other service members on the battlefield...

During most of my Marine Corps career the Corps and the Army wore the same camouflage uniform and there was no problem in identifying the difference between a Marine and a Soldier - from the cover/headgear, to the Corps' lack of unit patches and branch identifiers, to the different style rank insignia and other service devices, to the EGA and USMC iron-on stencil, to blousing vs. tucking of trousers at the boot, to the boot itself, to the different way each service rolled sleeves (Army's method was better in an NBC environment BTW), to the haircuts (Rangers excepted), to the Devil Dogs' white t-shirt peeking out at the neckline from under camouflage for goodness sake. The SgtMaj should fight the good fights and let the Army select the best possible uniform for their Soldiers and be flattered because the Corps led, by years, in the development and issue of a state of the art uniform. And mostly, isn't the real issue identifying friendly from foe from non-combatant? Let's focus on that.



Sat, 02/02/2013 - 9:02am

BLUF: All troops regardless of service need the best equipment possible, to include the best uniform/camofladge. That being said,I think the Army needs to go with a 3 uniform system. A desert uniform (MARPAT seems to be the best), a woodland uniform and an "in between" uniform (Multicam is best for this). The only time the uniform needs to be different is for dress uniforms.

MARPAT is better in some areas. It is very good in Iraq for example. One the other hand it isn't as good in Afghanistan as Multicam, which is better there.

Yes part job of CSMs/SgtMaj is uniforms... And when you have a CSM/SgtMaj worth a crap, who understands the purpose of a uniform, you are lucky. Most E-9's are worthless. Uniformity has a purpose (I fully support it), in Garrison.

The E-9's should be focued on enlisted and NCO training and development.
I have had several CSMs who were excellent. One in Alaska had us in the old "Bear suit" tops and snow camo pants... He determined that this was the best uniform. The snow top was used as needed. He clearly understood the "art" of camofladge and the purpose of a uniform.

The other CSM put us in the old brown polypro underwear tops during operation Anaconda. Why? Because it best matched the terrain we operated in.

The average Army E-9 is useless. Uniformity is NOT dicipline, though it may be an indicator of it, when used correctly. The CSM is not a co-commander... He is an advisor and trainer. He makes recommendations. One of the other problems is that way to many E-9's trying to run a second "chain of command". The next problem is that that the NCO corp has no brotherhood... Most E-7's,E-8's andd E-9's will go along with anything the commander says... And screw subordinates along the way.

The last thing is that NCO's should know and don't, is that they work for and are respondsible to, their Commanders, not the next higher NCO.

Stop being politicians and start doing your jobs.

Last thing: Knock off the "change of responsibility" cermoneies. They don't exist... If you want a cermoney you can get one when you retire. NCO's are blue collar. If you need a parade to feel good about yourself, then go to OCS.

NCO's stop worrying about college. You need to worry about military schools. If you want a college degree, get out and get one.


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 5:05am

Never saw this thread and didn't revive it but I found it very interesting that so many think multicam is superior to MARPAT. It isn't. (I know, I know, SACRILEGE!)

’08 analysis…
’10 analysis

Even though these tests were years after the decision to adopt UCP, I was very surprised and even more curious about the near total lack of reporting about how well MARPAT performed when compared against Multicam. From the ’08 analysis (p15), ELEVEN of twelve tests a version of MARPAT beat Multicam! In EIGHT of twelve (75%) Desert MARPAT beat Multicam. In three tests BOTH MARPAT patterns beat multicam. We always hear how Multicam did so well vs UCP. UCP was more effective than Multicam in ONE test, the same number of times Multicam was more effective than MARPAT. That’s incredibly strange that no one picked up on that! hmmmmm?

In the ’10 analysis Soldiers rated MARPAT and Multicam about the same across the board but again the reporting was exclusively about how Multicam was better than UCP. I wonder why there’s a total lack of interest in reporting that result?

It’s like Multicam fans and journalists are as partial to it and blind to the effectiveness of MARPAT as allegedly the Army was with fielding a digital pattern. Wonder if there will be any empathy for the Army’s myopia or soul searching on why MARPAT is never discussed?

BTW, the Marine Corps Commandant also pulled the "copyrighted" and "unique" line out back in '03 - '04 timeframe when UCP was selected. No excuses for the Army being dumb. Just pointing out that today's EIGHT different camo patterns insanity/waste started a long time ago. This stands in stark contrast to the 50 years preceding MARPAT. Many don't know that the Duck Pattern worn by Marines in the Pacific in WWII, ERDL in Vietnam and later BDUs were all developed by the Army who promptly shared them with our sister services.

At least the Army has already announced that its latest iteration of camo will be copyrighted but shared with any service that wants it.

Col. John Lins…

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 5:23pm

As anybody who's looked at a hunting catalogue from Cabalas or Duck's unlimited knows, there are all sorts of patented 'camo' designs intended to resemble reeds, eelgrass, fall foliage, trees, blah, blah blah. And as anyone who has actually hunted knows, this is largely a crock, except perhaps for white clothing in a snow-covered landscape, and non-jarring colours (e.g. no bright greens in a sandy desert). Successful concealment is a primarily a matter of breaking predictable patterns, silence, and most of all stillness. Scottish deer-stalkers have for centuries worn muted pattern tweeds, and are practically invisible on the hills and moors. So most of this is a tempest in a teapot, it seems to me.

That said, the notion that one Armed Service can 'patent' and monopolize something that appeals to them seems utterly fatuous to me. "Nyah, nyah, you can't use my .50 sniper rifle - - that's Army!" How silly can you get?

Steve (not verified)

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 1:34pm

"Multicam is better then the ACU pattern, no question (or Marpat IMO) -- nor was their ever a question on that score. Howsomeever, plain old OG 107 still does just as well in more conditions at half the price. ;)"

Quite so. There was a study done by (I think) Natik in the late 1960s (about the time the Woodland BDU was coming into service) that came to the same conclusion. The old OD/OG uniform also did good service as a work uniform, something that the newer ones just haven't been able to do. And with the lower cost, it was much easier for Joe/Jane to have an "inspection uniform" all starched and ready to go along with a number of work uniforms (it was even authorized to cut the shirt down into a short sleeve version). Not so easy to do these days. And honestly, does the clerk, personnel officer, or flightline mechanic really NEED a camo uniform?

Matthew Shown (not verified)

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 9:46am

The camouflage issue seems to counter the very thing that we as military professionals are suppose to embody...selfless service. Why would any service (Navy, Air Force, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard) want to hold back from its fellow Armed Force Branches anything that could allow them to be more effective in combat? We are all trying to execute the same mission in service to the same people. Are we all not brothers and sisters in arms? I did joint operations with the 1st MARDIV in Ramadi during 2003 operations when assigned to 1st BDE 1st ID and if any Marine ever needed help we were there and vice versa. When it comes to camouflage, or any other equipment needed to make us a better fighting force across the branches, we need to be working together. Monopolizing innovation and not sharing amongst ourselves as erodes the values we stand for as a combined arms force of military professionals.

Call me cynical, but I've always wondered how much of the decision to go with the ACUs was based on the desire for a cool recruiting campaign, and multicam just doesn't look all that futuristic. I'm not saying futuristic makes good camo, but it might make good recruiting campaigns and look "cool" to teenage boys.

Ken White (not verified)

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 5:23pm

<b>Ghikas:</b><blockquote>"How does that happen?</blockquote>A reasonably reliable source told me that the decision was made by an unnamed General Officer sitting in the decision brief asking "Which one is the digital camo?" Then stating "That's the one we want..." Sounds plausible. Aside from the invented at Natick (can't have an expensive operation not producing results that aren't employed) factor, I suspect the license fee to Multicam was a consideration.

You are correct. The wrong pattern can be consequential -- I should have said arguing about who owns what camouflage on the basis of 'identity' as opposed to 'effectiveness' and what's best for the US, not a specific service is inconsequential -- or sorta juvenile...

Multicam is better then the ACU pattern, no question (or Marpat IMO) -- nor was their ever a question on that score. Howsomeever, plain old OG 107 still does just as well in more conditions at half the price. ;)

Ghikas (not verified)

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 11:42am

Well, the camouflage issue isn't --entirely-- inconsequential. Since 2005 all of us in the Army have been running around the battlefield in what amounts to glow-in-the-dark pajamas.

Ironically, Multicam was tested by the Army--for a couple years, and the tests showed that by far, Multicam was the best pattern. Then suddenly we put on ACUs. How does that happen? No one ever sufficiently explained that one. Mind you, after the uniforms came all the gear, so literally billions (with a "B") have been spent on the Army's current pattern. And after all the changes and expenditure, Congress had to order the Army to put a new camo into theater. When did the military ever have to be told that we're not dressed properly for work? Embarrassing!

Now we've spent additional moneys putting Multicam into Afghanistan. It works. Not just there but in multiple environments (not all, but very, very many). We ought to just cut losses right now and just issue Multicam to the rest of the force. Save the time and money we'll waste on trials, experiments, surveys, testing, contract bidding, etc. The uniforms are already made. The gear has already been made. It just needs to be put on the shelf. It can only be better than the current pattern--and it's what the Army was going to do originally!

That would a) solve this serious issue of ineffective/dangerous camouflage, and b) make this entire Army/USMC camo spat entirely moot, so we can go on about our business.

Ken White (not verified)

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 10:48am

The Camouflage issue is transitory and breathtakingly inconsequential.

Sergeants Major and what they do, OTOH, are or certainly should be important issues. The efforts of each of them on a daily basis is a reflection upon the individual however those actions are in the final analysis quite dependent upon the whims, goals and desires of their Commanders.

<b>Bluelight</b> did it right. His final two paragraphs above cite the ideal...

Bluelight (not verified)

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 4:14am

I know SgtMaj Kent. He is a good man and a good SgtMaj. Did he blow this one? Maybe, but in looking at the body of the man's work, I think its pretty positive. Having had Sgts Maj work for me at a couple different levels in the Marine Corps, I would tell you that your SgtMaj will be whatever you want him to be. If you want him to act as an "uber Duty NCO" he will do that, and that will be unfortunate for your unit, but thats not the role I ever directed my SgtMaj to fill.
The largest part of my SgtMaj's portfolio was devoted to the development of NCOs and SNCOs. He was responsible for training, education, and mentoring of subordinate enlisted leaders. If Marines needed haircuts, shaves, or if the battalion police call wasn't done, he called the 1st Sergeants in and via that chain of influence corrections were made. But that chain of influence was also utilized for a variety of other more important issues related to leadership, warfighting, etc, that built the capability and capacity of junior leaders to assume the role of more senior leaders.
The other thing I always used my SgtMaj for was enlisted perspective. I wasn't prior enlisted, I didn't live in the barracks, never had to survive with two kids and a wife on LCpl's pay. My SgtMajs were always great about sharing that side of the Marine Corps with me and I think it helped me make better decisions.
So yeah, there are martinets out there who are caricatures of what a SgtMaj should be, but I would tell you that it's the Colonel's unit and the CO drives the SgtMaj's tasking and actions. Probably the most important thing senior leaders both officer and enlisted can do is develop the next generation of leaders. I always tried to focus my SgtMaj in this area.

Publius (not verified)

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 8:57pm


I've associated with the US military for almost 50 years, entering as a buck private, ascending to NCO status, and then, remarkably, achieving officer status. This, even though most of my peers felt sergeant squad leader was my Peter Principle limit.

The one constant through all of these years of active duty as a Snuffy, as an NCO, as an officer, as a professional civilian and as a retiree who consulted sometimes was: NCO chickenshit games. Not to say officers didn't do it, too, but it always seemed too many members of the NCO Corps had refined it to a science.

Can't tell you how many guys might have stayed, even after Vietnam, had they not been unfortunate enough to end up at Bragg, Hood, Riley (or any other garden spot) and then having to mow lawns and paint rocks for Sergeant Rock and his boss, Captain America.

I don't know whether to be happy or sad that it seems nothing has changed. Somehow, however, I sort of came to believe that the US military culture in the 21st Century might advance right along with the great leaps in weaponry and other technological marvels.

This is all the stuff of novels written by some great authors and some not so great authors. Damn, the military is endlessly amusing if you're not the guy who actually has to put up with the idiosyncracies of various strange guys with lots of stripes or stars.


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 4:39am

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Mike (not verified)

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 6:11pm

An Army Laboratory actually developed the pattern for the Marines' uniform.

The Marines screaming over the Army using "their" camoflage pattern stinks of hypocrisy!

Marines claim credit for what are Army accomplishments, e.g. being first to fight, fighting in the Battle ofTrenton, anchoring Andrew HJackson's line at the Battle of New Orleans, capturing the Castle of Chapultepec

The Army developed much of the weaponry the Marines use or have used, e.g. the M1 Garand, the Abrams Tank, the Javelin anti air missle, Artillery pieces.

Finally, many soldiers fought and died in the cause of compiling the Marines' combat record in WWII. The role of the Army in the Central Pacific was more extensive and more significant than the Marines' role at either the Halls of Montezuma or the Shores of Tripoli.

.. (not verified)

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 4:37pm

Lets be more specific JAQUEBAUER, that "someone" needs to be in the Sergeant Major's direct chain of command. I don't think CTU qualifies.

JAQUEBAUER (not verified)

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 2:32pm

As far as I can tell, The American people own the MARPAT design, paid for and bought by the taxpayers. Somebody needs to tell the Sergeant Major that.

Juan (not verified)

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 3:40am

So it's not ok for the Army to use MarPat, but it's ok for a bunch of other countries like Georgia and at one time the ANA to use it? Wtf..

While I'm willing to grant the Marines the benefit of the doubt that they pursued a new uniform for legitimate reasons, the patenting of it and making it distinct to me set the trend for each of the services developing separate uniforms that would be distinct. There certainly can't be any argument that the Air Force and Navy uniforms serve no purpose other than being different from those the Army and Marines wear. We've all got separate dress uniforms to distinguish our individual services. On the battlefield everyone should wear whatever is most effective, regardless of which service develops it.

Ken White (not verified)

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 1:45am

Since I haven't met any of you, Your record may still be good but in this 10 yrs as one of those things called a SMAJ, no one ever caught me worrying about uniforms. Unigrams and haircuts are a Squad Leaders job -- as is Police Call -- and good Sergeants Major just make sure those 1SGs and PSGS force Squad Leaders to do their job -- that's what they get the big bucks for. Not for doing others jobs for them.

As for assigning persons to that job outside the unit function and MOS preponderance, that explains why they can't do much nowadays except worry about non essentials, so they're geting blamed for a <i>systemic</i> problem...

The Sergeant Major should be the principal enlisted <u>trainer</u> because he should know more and be more experienced than everyone else.
If that's not the the case, then we have yet another example of how the Per weenies have destroyed the services in the name of 'management.'

You'd think good commanders would want that remedied...

As for MarPat, Multicam and all -- while I am rather disinterested, seems to me that that it might be better to just go back to OG 107, it blends more places than any of the patterns and its a couple of orders of magnitude cheaper. The IR suppressive stuff is a waste of time and money because we don't conceal sweaty feet or faces.

Anymouse (not verified)

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 1:21am

<i>Every SgtMaj i've ever met worried about uniforms.</i>

Yep, to an obsession, and often to the detriment of important issues. No argument here.

So, Anymouse (not verified)

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 12:08am


How did this discussion about uniforms turn into a referendum on three Commandants? Bitter much?

Jones was brought up because he instituted the MARPAT uniforms and others (JCustis) questioned whether having a unique uniform was motivation for Jones. (it was).

Here's my observation on what SgtMajs do particularly at the Bn/Sqdn level: they police appearance and military functionality of the unit. The SgtMaj critiques and corrects haircuts, shaves, and uniform appearance. A Marine is seen wearing a nasty uniform in the chow hall? SgtMaj will take care of it. By the way you write anymouse, I more than strongly suspect that you were on the receiving end of some of those SgtMaj "critiques". In short the SgtMaj polices the "professionalism" of the unit. Now I can hear you kicking and screaming and crying as I write this about how "HAIRCUTS AREN'T PROFESSIONALISM!" whah what etc. Of course you'd be right in my opinion. But you see the mighty Marine Corps disagrees with you. Have you ever stopped to think about why the Marine Corps deliberately places SgtMajs outside their MOS especially at the BN/Sqdn level? It's not uncommon to see a SgtMaj in a grunt BN who spent 20 years as a wrench turner or admin dude. He will likely have absolutely nothing to add in staff meetings when it comes to things like "tactics" "logistics" "weapons" "plans" or anything remotely relevant to fighting a war with one possible exception, "disclipline". He likely cant even tell a squad leader how to do his job. Except for a few notable exceptions, SgtMajs don't lead charges up hills or clear houses.

Why in the world does the Marine Corps do that? And yet we have some people who are shocked-SHOCKED-that Kent had the balls to talk about uniforms, the very topic he has likely spent the most time worrying about in the last 10 years? That he's out of his "lane". If he isn't in his lane, tell me just what should that lane be?

Hey, maybe we should change our senior SNCO system into one that will focus more on "warfighting" issues instead of uniform issues. I'd probably be in favor of that. But that would probably cut in to traditional "officer" roles. So we keep the poor SgtMajs back in their corners where they can obsess over such things as haircuts and uniforms.

But I'm sure as hell not shocked-nor even mildly surprised-that the SMMC spoke out on uniforms. Every SgtMaj i've ever met worried about uniforms.


Mon, 06/06/2011 - 11:38pm

Interesting to see the comments as this has gone on....lot of tap dancing from those trying to defend the SMMC's comments and stance.

And no, I don't believe he's looking out for his Marines. He's being a moron. It's that simple. And no, it's not his job to take the heat for the Commandant. The Commandant is a big boy and wears more rank than anyone else in the USMC. If he needs a shield bearer, then heaven help the officer corps for the USMC.

This issue is absurd and I'm honestly astounded it's a story. The Commandant needs to walk in the SMMC's office and tell him to stay in his lane - it won't be his signature on this, it'll be the Commandant's, and that's who needs to speak.

This does highlight some issues with our senior NCOs. I'm a big fan of the NCO Corps, overall. But many of our E8s and E9s simply need a reality check. There's a reason we call CSM, Clean / Sweep / Mow, rather than Command Sergeant Major. When you see 1SGs creating designated/reserved parking for themselves, and SMMC's bitching about another branch adopting a uniform (especially after the USMC has adopted many, many things after allowing another branch to pay for the R&D to create it), then it's plainly obvious those senior officers need a job and perhaps that job should not be in a uniform.

Just like we've had some high profile officers lately, branded with the toxic leadership label, we have some of those in our NCO ranks as well.

Maybe we should all just go about fighting these wars as one team and stop the bitching - and that includes me. I'm not going to worry about this pettiness any longer.


Mon, 06/06/2011 - 11:23pm

Anymouse, I need to buy you a beer for these posts. Beautiful work.

Anymouse (not verified)

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 10:51pm

Conway, Hagee, & Jones don't count, they are history, as in former Commandants, in fact why not post here just what those 3 CMC's actually did - REALLY DID - for the Corps during their tenures? Not much to say the least, especially during a time when the Corps was/is supporting sustained land war (ala Vietnam). Where did any of them rationally explain (and it isnt rocket science) the USMC vision for the future... A real vision, not buzz word "Americas 9/11" "From the Sea" BS. Dont get me wrong, the Corps is well positioned to be a major, if not THE major player after the post-Iraq-Afghanistan reset, they just need to articulate it better.

Eric (not verified)

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 8:17pm

You can agree or disagree w/what I wrote, that wasn't the point of writing it, the point was to elaborate on the SMMC's stance.

His point is not "we should be the ones w/the best camouflage" or "that we put the time & money in to develop it so you can't have it".

His point is it was designed to be well camouflaged, functional, etc, but uniquely Marine uniform.

This is not my opinion, for the Idiot calling me a Chest Thumper. I'm relaying what was the well documented stance of the USMC at the time the Uniform was presented.

Why uniquely Marine & not just new uniform? If you read the articles at that time ('01,'02,'03) they explained why. They said that it does what the enemy already does after they engage w/US Marine; try to find identifying markers to separate them fr/other units, having a Marine only camo just makes it faster.

It caused more stir then then it is now. Will the other services get it? If not will Navy personnel assigned to USMC get it??

So To Charles, who asked me if I understood that it was the TTPs that the Taliban fear not the actual MarPat... Yes Charles, its in what I wrote.

To JCustis: Your explanation explains everything but why they Patented it. Fortunately there are plenty of articles fr/the time where they explain why they Patented the design.

Like I said earlier, this is not my personal opinion this was written in response to the statement the SMMC is "dead wrong", to explain the stance he took.

He's defending a stance the USMC took on this issue 9yrs ago. As SMMC or as any Sr Enlisted Adviser one of his roles is to express positions his officer may feel but not be as free to speak as Enlisted, to be a Shield Bearer & take the heat, & thats exactly what he's doing.

AMOS may feel differently, we'll soon find out, but Conway, Hagee, & Jones didn't.

Anymouse (not verified)

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 7:19pm

Well, as a saved round from my last comment, there is also something to be said about the "sameness" or differences once all the battle rattle and in some instances NBC gear is put on over the MARPAT/BDU.


"Fr/the Devils in Black Boots in Somalia (b/c Marines wore Dsrt Camo w/Jungle Bts), to the White Sleeves of mid '90s Haiti; enemy quickly learn to point out Marine units by differences in uniform"

Could it be that the enemy figured out who was who because the Marine uniform says "U.S. MARINES" on the chest and the Army uniform says "U.S. ARMY?"

A thought....

Anymouse (not verified)

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 4:39pm

I guess I could scroll up to find the couple of posts that address what our senior SNCOs consider important but I won't. From personal experience the type of stuff Kent espouses is rampant amongst the senior Marine Corps SNCO ranks. We can all argue that each incident like this is isolated.

I unfortunately found myself on a USMC SgtMaj e-mail list several years ago, apparently by accident. In the midst of two wars and a wider GWOT, these senior enlisted leaders wasted hours/days/weeks and bandwidth discussing whether the gate-guards at the main gate should be allowed to wear a cold-weather watch-cap (it gets very cold in Virginia, in the dead of winter, at zero-dark early). Most were against, and then when they lost that argument, began another one. Is it allowable to salute officers cars while wearing a watch-cap and the SgtMaj energizer bunnies kept on (meanwhile across the globe).

But I guess I should not belabor the point. My bottom line is that there are more Kents amongst our NCO ranks than John Basilones right now in the Corps. We are over 40 years too late in ridding our Corps of those who are waste products. Yes, there are good ones, but until the Corps takes enlisted development as serious as officer's the Service is screwed. Start with real NCO and SNCO education - anyone can learn to drill with a sword, not everyone can be a strategic corporal.

Marko Volk (not verified)

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 4:19pm

Not only is this a silly argument on the first place, the greater irony is that MARPAT isn't even the best camo pattern; Crye Precision MULTICAM, for one example, is gar superior in most environments. But regardless, this is just the sort of thing admin pukes and rear echelon Rambo types love to waste their time on kefir heading put for a few round of golf, and then drinks at the clubhouse, while troops in the field are bleeding.

duck (not verified)

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 12:56pm

My memory differs from others. I specifically remember Gen. Jones saying that one of the reasons he sought a new uniform was to make Marines seperatly identifiable on the battlefield.

Perhaps the Army's inability to develop a unique effective uniform overrides the Marines' need to be seperatly identifiable.


Mon, 06/06/2011 - 12:51pm

"The effect of the pattern is all but negated by vehicles, hundreds of pounds of coyote tan Blackhawk gear, and continued requirements to leave the wire in numbers far too large to ever be stealthy. Since no unit besides SOF is authorized to sneak around outside the wire, it all comes down to how you look inside the wire. If that's all we're talking about then the Army is wasting just as much time as the Marines by even worrying about it."

... so true, so sad

<p>Am I incorrect in assuming that maintaining the distinction has something to do with recruiting, as well? I&#8217;m someone who typically doesn&#8217;t care how clothes look as long as they work and even I think the <span style="font-variant: small-caps;">mccuu</span> is pretty snazzy. If the Army adopts <span style="font-variant: small-caps;">marpat</span> the pattern and by extension the uniform is going to loose its exclusivity. For one thing, production of the pattern would increase to the point that it would become impossible to keep it out of civilian hands.</p>

I think one point being slightly misunderstood by a few on the board is that its not the material or look of the cammies that gives Marines an advantage in combat its the reputation of the person wearing the MARPAT uniform that identifies them as US Marines. That's what some point to from Korea, to Haiti/Somalia, etc. "Stay away from those guys, they are US Marines." Whether you believe those stories or not that may have something to do with why the Sgt Major is partly against the idea.

So the cash-strapped US military is busily doing everything possible to waste each additional tax payer's dollar it can get it's hands on.

Eric's argument seems to be that uniforms should be designed to enable the enemy to identify the USMC, so as to enable their use of tactics which are better able to cause marine casualties. Seems like a bright idea.

If the Corps is so much better than the army, the effect of engaging in combat with the marines will speak for itself - if not, sew a badge on.


Mon, 06/06/2011 - 10:32am

While I understand the Army's position, I find the arguments disingenuous. The reason Marines take pride in their unique uniforms is the same reason Army units take pride in their various pieces of flair and unit patches. For soldiers to act like they don't understand the Marines' position is hypocrisy, and the evidence is right on their sleeves. Soldiers take pride in their patches, Marines take pride in their camo. In fact, after the controversy surrounding the entire Army adopting the beret, soldiers understand this issue better than anyone.

The argument that the pattern would save lives fails as well. The effect of the pattern is all but negated by vehicles, hundreds of pounds of coyote tan Blackhawk gear, and continued requirements to leave the wire in numbers far too large to ever be stealthy. Since no unit besides SOF is authorized to sneak around outside the wire, it all comes down to how you look inside the wire. If that's all we're talking about then the Army is wasting just as much time as the Marines by even worrying about it.

In the end, however, it is a waste of time. The Army is trying to do right by its soldiers in the search for effective camo, just as the Sergeant Major is doing right by his Marines in trying to preserve their uniqueness. Neither is a "bad guy" in this.

If there's one one aspect of the military mind that's never ceased to amaze me, it's that grown men will cattily deride each other's outfits and footwear as if they were characters in a Candace Bushnell novel.

I guess the SMMC didn't get the word from the SECDEF saying we need to find ways to save money.

Everyone across the DOD use use the same utility uniforms if they work and are durable, as was pointed out above you save by economy of scale.

As for the enemy knowing who Marines are vs. Army. They knew which Army units were which and avoided some over others. If you are effective they will figure it out...don't worry you fighting legacy will be safe and nobody will confuse you with the Army.

And while we are saving money on uniforms why is the Army continuing to buy a flight uniform that costs two to three times as much and wears half as long as the standard CWU-27P flight suit utilized by the other services? If somebody (SECDEF?) would step in and standardize across branches literally millions could be saved. I know that's a drop in the bucket, but that is a reoccurring savings over time that adds up to real money.


Mon, 06/06/2011 - 5:58am

Woodland MARPAT works great everywhere, except plain desert, where it does not matter anyway, because everybody moves in vehicles. I would prefer MARPAT even more than multicam, because multicam tends to get too light after field abuse and couple of washings in industrial wash machines used by military, and became just another desert pattern.


Mon, 06/06/2011 - 4:00am

"Is this the sort of thing that ordinarily consumes the time of the senior enlisted member of the USMC?" Answer: YES. This is what all of our senior enlisted leaders busy themselves with: superficial bullshit. This is actually less petty than most. I recently saw an email that went around with senior enlisted and the SMMC weighing in on how to control purchase of the new Marine Corps PT running suit so that they can ensure that only Marines have it so that they can jump people who are wearing it improperly out in town. The bottom line was that the MCX can only sell it to active duty members so that SNCOs can jump people without worrying about whether they are members or not. This is what they spend their time with. I know they're doing a lot of other stuff, but just the fact that they have time to spend on stuff like this means they're taking their eye off the ball.


Mon, 06/06/2011 - 1:36am

As for price....I would think it would come down because the buyer would be the DOD, correct? They'd be buying more, large bulk quantities, leading to cheaper prices, a la Walmart? Maybe I'm wrong.

As an Army guy I'll say this: MARPAT is very, very, very good. MARPAT and Multicam are the only two choices in my book. The USMC should just be flattered they've selected such a great product and that others want to adopt it. I'd have no shame in switching to MARPAT right now. It's a good pattern.

Interesting information from the Commandant.


Mon, 06/06/2011 - 12:58am

I'm sorry Eric, but your point does not hold water.

As a captain in my career level school, I sat in a briefing and listened to the Commandant at the time tell the assembled officers the following:

-Following the Army's procurement lead on woodland cammies was a greater expense that the Corps thought unnecessary. This is at the service level mind you. It had to do with the fact that the Corps had to procure uniforms at a price above what they thought they could score if going alone with a unique pattern and quality of cloth.
-Some folks had done some experimentation somewhere as this pixelated pattern of camoflague was proving exceptionally effective.
-For the individual Marine, the cost of maintaining the ensemble of woodland pattern (in both the heavyweight and ripstop weigbts) was higher than it needed to be in terms of initial purchase, cleaning, repair, and normal maintenance. It was also a time killer because if a Marine wanted to look anything less than a bag of ass on Monday, he'd better spend time Sunday pressing them out, and again at the end of each day.
-The new material/pattern would have unique features to provide identification that one was dealing with patented material, blah, blah. There was no talk at that time of this service identity crap and quite frankly, there didn't need to be.

From this, I don't believe survivability was highest on the reasons for the move. It was a matter of money across the long run. Regardless, the points delineated above are what came directly out of the Commandant's mouth.

The new uniforms lived up to everything they were pitched as being. Now all I do is pull a set out of the drier, shake them, and hang then up. The crease in the trousers never goes away, and the color does not fade as quickly. I also don't screw them up try to iron on the EGA on my left breast pocket.

Having said all this, there is no defensible position for acting like this, other than the matter of price. Demand for the fabric, even sans EGA, would go up, and from my almost-didn't-pass-macro economics background, that tells me that the cost for USMC uniforms would increase as well. I could be wrong, but regardless, that's the only facet in mymind where we'd have a leg to stand on. The rest Of the arguments are indefensible.

Publius (not verified)

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 12:53am

Is this the sort of thing that ordinarily consumes the time of the senior enlisted member of the USMC? One wonders if the American people share the sergeant major's views. They are the ones paying for all of the uniform-related nonsense in all of the services, after all.

Just when you think you've seen just about everything when it comes to military foolishness, along comes yet another reminder of what happens when people have too much time on their hands.

Bad PR, indeed. Sorry, Marines, your guy blew it.

Charles Sullivan (not verified)

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 12:39am

Great point by Mr. Munson - regarding the silliness and how is it that our leaders have the time to spend on this garbage.

Perhaps the SMMC should direct his attention to more pressing issues, and there are more pressing issues - there's a war going on!

I take issue with what Eric said. Sorry brother but that is a terribly misinformed comment. If you think for one instant that MARPAT is guiding the Taliban, you're crazy. The "enemy" has been watching our bumper numbers, vehicle types, weapon types, TTPs, and many other things for a long time now. Furthermore, if it was MARPAT that was such a strong signal, I promise you every service member in theater would be wearing MARPAT. Our senior leaders are so scared to take a casualty, those MARPAT unis would have been out in a week.

Also, how do you suppose a fighting force such as the Taliban with poor nutrition and poor eyesight are spotting the uniform differences? They are cued in to other indicators.

If you think MARPAT was invented so Marines would look different then heaven help you. It was designed for effectiveness, not so you could thump your chest about looking different while you conduct your "trademark" tactics.

How in the hell is the SMMC fighting for his Marines by telling other services to stay away from the MARPAT? Do you have any logical argument constructed to show how an Army Soldier wearing MARPAT would jeopardize anything for Marines?

Perhaps someone should show the SMMC that his oath is to support and defend the same constitution the rest of us support and defend and the flag flying at his HQ is the same at all the other branches. Absolutely moronic and stupefying stance.

USMC....good organization, but it's time to stop being idiots on this issue. Or we can all just play fuck-fuck games and the Navy can tell the Marines to ride on their own ships (oops, they don't have any), The USAF can tell them to fly into theater on their own planes (oops, don't have air transport either), and the Army can "patent" and pull back the equipment it developed that was later adopted by the USMC.

Seriously....there's a time for branch pride, and then there's a time to shut up.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 06/05/2011 - 11:53pm

If the Marines need a patent for their uniforms what if the Army patented the M1 tank the Huey and the Cobra, the M16 and M4 the 155mm howitzer and all the other equipment the Army and other services and even other countries (e.g., the Brits and the Harrier) have developed and provided to the Marines. If Marines have developed the best camo pattern that works then they should be willing to share it. Or they can keep their camo pattern and let all the services keep their equipment that the Marines are dependent on. Let them cut off their nose to spite their face.

Eric (not verified)

Sun, 06/05/2011 - 11:07pm

I agree w/your sentiment, but I can't agree that the SMMC stance is dead wrong. He has a leg to stand on, & his point is this.

While its true the USMC & USA have worn the same Cammies/BDUs for decades, being a Marine I'm sure you know, that in countless engagements the enemy quickly delineates the 2 units.

Fr/the Devils in Black Boots in Somalia (b/c Marines wore Dsrt Camo w/Jungle Bts), to the White Sleeves of mid '90s Haiti; enemy quickly learn to point out Marine units by differences in uniform showing a little of both fear & respect by avoiding or changing tactics when engaging USMC units.

Case in point was when the USMC took over for the Brit RM in Sangin. The RM's leading cause of death in tht AO was always Small Arms Fire. When 3/7 began to take over the local taliban tried to engage them in complex S.A.F. Due to USMC trademarks of aggressive tactics & excellent small unit leadership, the 1st wk accounted for over 100 E-KIA followed by a 2wk OP that resulted in over 150 killed or captured.

40 Cdo was still operating during the RIP, the local T's quickly changed to avoid direct fire w/the US Marines (easily distinguished wearing MarPat) while still engaging in DF w/the RM. By the time of 3/5's deployment (a month later) the local Taliban had almost completely abandoned the complex assaults used against the RM & opted for the safer IED+Sniper route.

While your intention is justified, its not a silly pride issue. While I'm sure the SMMC cares about all US Service Members his 1st responsibility is to fight for his Marines.

US enemies over the yrs have always taken the time to Identify US Marines, which is why MarPat was Patented. If being able to clearly delineate Marines facilitates that; then his job to fight for his Marines & uphold that Patent.


Sun, 06/05/2011 - 9:40pm

As a Marine, I do like that our uniform is different from the rest of the services'. However, all of this uniform changing and gear nonsense is disgusting as Ironhorse says. What is more, the amount of attention service leadership places on such silliness is telling. Why do they have the time to care about this and a million other petty issues they seem to focus on? It is one thing to worry about finding the most effective uniform, it is another thing to play interservice fashion contest. Finally, the Smadge's stance on this issue is bad PR for the USMC in the eyes of everyone except for those retired (and some active duty) Marines who have nothing better they are capable of thinking about.


Sun, 06/05/2011 - 9:13pm

I agree let the best uniform be used. Between changes of uniforms and the myriad of packs, body armor and assorted equipment changed since 2000 we have lost the bubble and have all become like the 2ndLt gear enthusiast. The time and money spent on this is disgusting

jcustis (not verified)

Sun, 06/05/2011 - 8:15pm

Agreed Dave. It is time for that post and relief...