Murtha's Legacy -- New Army Camo Uniform for Afghanistan

ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: You might call it John Murtha’s legacy. Beginning this summer, US Army troops in Afghanistan will begin fielding uniforms with a new camouflage pattern that blends better into Afghanistan’s valleys, mountains and deserts. The Army announced the change today.

Last summer, the late congressman inserted language into a War Supplemental Bill that required the Army to look at whether its current camouflage uniform pattern was suited for Afghanistan. He had heard some complaints from soldiers in the field that the current uniform camouflage pattern was okay for Iraq, but not for Afghanistan’s different topography. As a result the Army announced it would begin field testing of two new camouflage patterns, one called MultiCam and the other UCP-Delta. MultiCam blends in green, brown and grey pigments and looks similar to camouflage patterns worn by America’s allies. Some US special operations forces also the pattern in the field. UCP-Delta added brown pigments to the current Army pattern.

The plan was for two Army battalions in Afghanistan to test-wear the new patterns for a couple of months. Each battalion would test only one of the new patterns. Later, a decision would be made as to whether it made sense to keep the old uniform or possibly move to a new camouflage pattern. This week, Army Secretary John McHugh decided that a switch in uniforms for troops in Afghanistan should be made based on the field testing.

So, beginning this summer all Army units deploying to Afghanistan will arrive wearing the new uniform pattern. Use of the new pattern will only apply to Army troops in Afghanistan, the current Army camouflage uniform will still be worn elsewhere.

Here are some stats on how the new uniforms were received by the units that tested them. In the battalion that received the multi-cam pattern, 93 percent of the soldiers in the unit favored the new pattern. That compares to 74 percent favorability for the other pattern worn by the other battalion. Studies showed that the MultiCam uniform had 21 percent less detectability than the current camouflage pattern, that compares to 16 percent for the UCP-Delta.

The transition will begin in July and August when new units will arrive in Afghanistan wearing the new uniforms, whether they be active duty, National Guard or Reserves. At some point troops already in Afghanistan will also begin wearing the new uniform. The pattern will be used on all parts of the combat uniform including bulletproof vests.

The Army will decide at some point in the future whether it makes sense to switch the entire Army to the new pattern. There are currently 48,500 Army soldiers in Afghanistan right now, and that number will grow further this year with the surge of forces. The cost of the switch in Afghanistan is estimated in the “tens of millions”.

And it all started with John Murtha.

Photo credit: U.S. Army

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