The latest meeting of the Army Uniform Board resulted in a number of recommendations for clothing bag additions -- and plans to develop a new maternity PT uniform. The board met June 25, according to a new service release; Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville approved the resulting recommendations Aug. 28.
The Army Uniform Board meets twice annually and includes soldiers from all levels and every service component, including the National Guard and Reserve. It reviews uniform requirements and can recommend changes to the issued clothing bag, dress uniforms and optional uniform items. It can also make recommendations for future study or development of new items.
Every soldier can also offer suggestions and feedback through their unit's sergeant major.
According to the Army release, the following recommendations were made in the most recent meeting:
- Add the Type II [Occupational Camouflage Pattern] Combat Cloth Face Covering as standard-issue in the clothing bag
- Authorize the women's improved hot weather combat uniform in the clothing bag and also as an optional uniform
- Issue black athletic socks to initial-entry soldiers instead of providing them with a cash allowance to buy the socks from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Troop Store.
- Plan a phased transition from the current hot weather combat boot to the improved hot weather combat boot.
The improved hot weather combat uniform went on sale in military clothing stores in June 2019, offering a 57/43 nylon-cotton blend, compared with the old uniform's 50/50 blend, to speed drying and keep soldiers cool.
The Army also issued a 2018 solicitation for an improved hot weather combat boot, calling for designs optimized for "performance and protection." The new release does not specify what the timeline for the phased transition will be or offer additional details about the improved boot.
Military.com reported last year that the service had shelved plans to issue a new jungle boot to soldiers after extensive wear tests, opting to make the boot available for sale in stores instead.
In addition to those recommendations, the Army Uniform Board called for a number of studies and other development initiatives. One of its recommendations, approved by McConville, is to develop a maternity Army physical fitness uniform, an item that has not previously existed. According to documents provided in 2019 to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, the chief of staff of the Army approved recommendations by the Army Uniform Board last year to create such a uniform.
The new board recommendation will push the uniform forward for user evaluation, allowing soldiers to wear-test the components.
Another recommendation focused on female soldiers is for research on improving the quality and effectiveness of the athletic bras issued to soldiers in entry-level training, and to deploying soldiers through the Rapid Fielding Initiative, meaning it's available for issue to soldiers quickly as they need it.
These new recommendations come as numerous services reevaluate and update uniforms available to female service members. The Air Force in particular has embarked on a lengthy process to improve the uniforms of female airmen to meet their practical and operational needs.
The board also called for a study on whether to add the Army combat glove to all soldiers' clothing bags, to add it only for soldiers whose military occupational specialties lend themselves to requiring such an item, or to keep it as a Rapid Fielding Initiative item.
AUB Chairman Lt. Gen. Duane Gamble, deputy chief of staff G-4, said in the release that recommendations made by the board seek to balance cost and effectiveness.
"While evaluating these topics, we must look for low-cost, high-quality options for the force," he said.
Further supporting Gamble's guidance, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston emphasized the importance of value when weighing any decisions to approve or disapprove. "Any cost increase must be supported by performance data," he said.
-- Bing Xiao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.