The Marine Corps' newest camouflage fatigues, or "cammies," have arrived at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe. Wearing the old cammies is Tyler Smith, left, and wearing the new design is Erik Menjivar.

Combat fashion

Kaneohe Marines are sporting
their new, improved apparel

By Gregg K. Kakesako

One of the hottest fashion trends has arrived at Kaneohe Bay.

The Marine Corps' newest battle fatigues, or "cammies," are so hot, in fact, that the military is warning Marines on Okinawa not to be taken in by fakes. Military surplus stores there are selling realistic-looking but bogus versions of the new uniform.

At Marine Corps Base Hawaii, there aren't enough of the new digitally pixilated uniforms available to meet demand.

Staff Sgt. Robert Carlson, Kaneohe spokesman, said Marines there are only allowed to draw one set of cammies and there is no date when they will be required to dump the familiar woodland green-and-black pattern and replace the five sets of fatigues each Marine is required to have.

"It all depends on the supply system," Carlson said.

Only three companies are contracted to produce the new uniforms -- Propper International, American Apparel and EA Industries.

A close-up look at the Marines' new fatigues reveals the digitally pixilated design, as well as the Marine emblem.

An informal survey of Kaneohe Marines belonging to I Company, 3rd Battalion, gave the new cammies a thumbs up.

"I think it looks sharp," said 2nd Lt. Whitney Foley, a platoon commander.

"You don't get as hot wearing them," said Lance Cpl. Adam Tate of the cotton/polyester blend material used, "and they look a lot better ... I especially like the Velcro pockets instead of buttons."

The only drawback, said Sgt. Vernon Jurvis, are the pockets on the shirt sleeves and the lack of hip pockets on the shirts.

"It's harder to roll our sleeves up," said Jurvis who has been a Marine for four years. "You still need the hip pockets because they are more accessible and allow you to carry more gear."

But Lance Cpl. Tyler Smith said the material in the new uniform "feels lighter."

"It feel so much cooler than the old ones."

The Marine Corps says that by March 2006 all Marines must have two sets. Enlisted Marines will be given money during the four-year phase-in to buy the required uniforms. Officers will have to buy theirs for $58 each.

The Marines' new cammies have dot patterns with alternating splotches of black and shades of green for woodland camouflage, and a similar tan design for deserts.

The new cammies, the first major change in what Marines wear in 20 years, are the brainchild of Gen. James Jones, former commandant of the Marine Corps. Three years ago he started a quest to make his service's uniform stand out when compared with those worn by the Army, Navy or Air Force. He also wanted a uniform that would cause a Marine to virtually disappear when walking into a wooded area.

The new cammies are supposed to be complemented by combat boots that don't need polishing.

Kaneohe Marines also are field testing a new brown undershirt that is a polyester blend and designed to keep them drier. It's part of the process to allow small groups of Marines to test and evaluate new equipment before any decision is made to field them, Carlson said.

That's what was done with the new cammies as the Marines tried to find a "warrior friendly" uniform. Using e-mails, focus groups and surveys through the Internet, the Marine Corps Uniform Board came up with several changes.

Survey respondents proposed improved buttons, snaps, Velcro and different camouflage patterns. Other suggested changes involved pocket placement and removable sleeves.

Besides the change from the alternating blotches of black, brown and green design, the new uniforms have slanted breast pockets held down by Velcro instead of buttons and no lower pockets on the blouse.

But overall the uniform is just more than comfortable, said Jurvis. "If you feel good in your uniform, you feel squared away and that does impact on the mission."

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