The first time I saw a squad sized element of Iraqi soldiers patrolling the streets wearing desert MARPAT I did the double take of the lifetime. For a second I mistook them for being a squad of Marines. A closer look at weapons and equipment, even at a distance, quickly dispelled that notion. I'm pretty sure that US Marines don't patrol in a file either but I was still surprised to see the pattern being used by Iraqi Security Forces.
As it turned out, the Iraqis were driving up to Kurdistan, where they buy much of their kit from, to procure these uniforms. Later I bought a set for myself to take a closer look at. On first inspection it is perfectly clear that these uniforms are knock offs. The material appears to be cotton rather than some type of Nylon blend. The colors are faded, not as pronounced or distinct as on authentic desert MARPAT uniforms. The cut and design of the uniform itself mimics ACU's with a few Iraqi twists such as shoulder epaulettes where Iraqi Officers are accustomed to wearing their rank. Major seams on the arms and legs are double stitched and the uniforms themselves actually hold up fairly well. The colors, while faded from the get-go, don't run even after repeated washings.
Say what you will about these boot-leg uniforms, as far as a camo color scheme goes, these Iraqis are doing it better than the US Army!
Take a closer look. As you might suspect, there are no manufacturers tags other than to state the uniform size. As you can see from the photo above, the USMC globe and anchor wasn't even removed by these black market manufacturers. I have no idea what the true origins of this uniform are but I've heard that when Western nations place orders for military uniforms with Chinese garment factories that they often print off the contracted order followed by an additional number using cheaper materials to sell on the black market.
Now I wish I had some pictures to show of the knock off CIRAS body armor carriers that the Iraqis had made...
Kit Up! contributor Jack Murphy is a former Ranger, Special Forces Soldier and is the author of the military thriller Reflexive Fire.