ACUs to be sold early '06, until then beware knockoffs
By Annette M. Fournier
October 26, 2005
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 25, 2005) -- Army officials are warning Soldiers against buying imitation Army Combat Uniforms in lieu of waiting for Army-approved ACUs to arrive in stores.
AAFES military clothing sales stores are scheduled to get ACUs in April, but a spokesman said they may appear sooner.
"The Army has advised AAFES to expect to start seeing ACUs in January," said Judd Anstey, media branch manager with AAFES. "Details are still being worked out at this time."
Some Soldiers, anxious to get the new uniforms, have bought imitation ACUs from unauthorized vendors. Authorized uniforms made to Army specifications are produced only by government-contracted companies and will be sold through Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores, officials said.
Unauthorized uniforms typically do not meet the Army's specifications in various ways, such as appearance, usability and durability, said Bob Panichelle, product executive in the Field Clothing Branch of Defense Supply Center Philadelphia's Clothing and Textiles Supply Chain, the organization contracting for ACU production.
"It's extremely important for Soldiers to wait until the ACU is available in the Army military clothing sales stores before purchasing a uniform," said Sgt. Maj. Katrina L. Easley, the Army's uniform policy sergeant major in the G1. "This prevents the Soldier from purchasing a uniform that has not been manufactured in accordance with the uniform quality control program."
Soldiers purchasing uniforms, uniform items, or heraldic items from establishments other than the Army military clothing sales stores must ensure that the items are authorized for wear and conform to appropriate military specifications or are manufactured in accordance with the Uniform Quality Control Program or the heraldic quality control system, Easley said. Soldiers should consult Army Regulation 670-1 for guidance.
Soldiers to have two ACUs by 2007
Defense Supply Center Philadelphia contracted 16 commercial sources, as well as Unicor Federal Prison Industries, the National Institute for the Blind and the National Institute for the Severely Handicapped to produce the ACUs, Panichelle said.
A similar model for awarding contracts, monitoring production and overseeing the disbursal of uniforms will be used in fielding the Air Force's new battle dress uniform, expected to begin fielding in the next two years, Panichelle said.
The final wear-out date for the battle dress uniforms and the desert combat uniforms is yet to be determined, said Easley. Active-duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers should have two sets of ACUs by May 1, 2007, according to AR 670-1. By May 1, 2008, all Soldiers should have four pairs each, and by April 2010, ROTC students should have four sets.
Knockoffs could threaten safety
To tell if an ACU is authorized, Soldiers should look for two tags sewn into the uniform. One tag near the collar is printed with the size and the second tag located elsewhere on the uniform gives the government contract number identifying what company made the uniform, and care instructions, according to Program Executive Office Soldier's Web site.
Some uniforms being made offshore at present do not contain the Identification of Friend or Foe tag, a tag which allows Soldiers to identify friendly forces at night. Buying a uniform without the tag could put a Soldier in danger, Panichelle said.
Other uniforms may contain fabric that is not in compliance with Army specs for the ACU camouflage pattern, Panichelle said, and could jeopardize the safety or security of an individual Soldier or an entire unit.
Like BDUs, ACUs have an expected wear-life of 6 to 12 months, and are made of the same rip-stop fabric as the summer BDUs. For quality control, DSCP closely monitors production at its manufacturing facilities through periodic site visits and quality inspections by specialists assigned to these facilities, Panichelle said.
If Soldiers have problems with issued ACUs, they can return the uniforms for a monetary refund or a store credit. With imitation ACUs, there is no guarantee of the quality of materials used, location where uniforms were manufactured, or refunds for defective uniforms.
ACUs issued by priority
The official ACUs are not currently available for purchase, and at this point are still being issued on a prioritized basis, with deploying units top on the list.
At basic training sites, ACUs were issued to trainees beginning Oct. 1. At the Basic Combat Training Brigade, Fort Benning, Ga., the supply is limited but trainees receive ACUs before they go to their advanced training, said Dave Thompson, brigade S4 officer in charge.
Commanders in basic training units and graduates of drill sergeant school are being given the opportunity to buy ACUs early so they can set the example for trainees and to maintain uniformity in a unit, Thompson said.
Soldiers and commanders are responsible for ensuring they purchase and wear authorized uniforms and heraldic items, according to Army regulation 670-1.
Commanders will also conduct periodic inspections to ensure that all personnel under their command wear only uniforms and heraldic items produced by certified manufacturers and that they meet specifications for design and quality, in accordance with AR 670-01.
The 16 companies awarded the contracts to produce ACUs are:
...� American Apparel
...� DJ Manufacturing Corp.
...� Bethel Industries, Inc.
...� Bremen Bowden
...� Rutter Rex
...� Fox Apparel
...� Sidran, Inc.
...� American Power Source, Inc.
...� Ashland Sales and Service
...� Caribbean Needle Point, Inc.
...� Wear-tech, Inc.
...� AC Fabricated Products
For more information, see the PEO Soldiers Web site: www.peosoldier.army.mil/pmequipment.