The Army Combat Uniform and its flame-retardant variant, the Flame-Resistant Army Combat Uniform (FRACU), are the current battle uniforms worn by the United States Army. The uniform is also used by the U.S. Air Force, where it is known as the Airman Combat Uniform (ACU).
The ACU features hook-and-loop fasteners on its sleeve pockets.
The ACU jacket originally used hook-and-loop-backed attachments to secure items such as name tapes, rank insignia, and shoulder patches and tabs, as well as recognition devices such as the U.S. flag patch and the infrared (IR) tab. Originally only pin-on skill badges were authorized for wear on the ACU, with no more than 5 at any one time.
In the summer of 2011, regulations were changed to allow for wearing of sew-on embroidered skill badges like the ones worn on the older BDUs. The 5-badge limit remained in effect, and there could be no mixing of sew-on and pin-on badges. At the same time, the US Army tape, personal nametapes, and rank insignia could be sewn-on at the wearers preference. Skill tabs, such as the President's Hundred Tab, Special Forces, Ranger, and Sapper are worn on the left sleeve pocket flap, and are subject to a 3-tab-only rule. A tab that is an integral part of a unit patch, such as the "Mountain" or "Airborne" tab, is not counted against the rule. The U.S. Army Chaplain insignia is the only authorized army branch insignia to be worn on the ACU. It is centered 1/8 inch above the right name tape. The insignia may be the metal pin-on variety or the black embroidered insignia on digitized fabric with hook-and-loop fasteners.
Near Infrared (NIR) Signature Management Technology is incorporated to minimize the infrared silhouette. Permanent IR IFF squares are sewn to each shoulder to help identify friendly personnel when night vision devices are used, and are protected by hook & loop tabs in garrison or when not in use.
Three U.S. flag insignia are authorized for wear with the ACU: full-color, full-color IR, and subdued IR. The U.S. flag insignia (full-color or subdued) is worn on the right shoulder pocket flap of the ACU coat. The subdued version is only worn as directed under tactical or field conditions. On the right shoulder of the ACU, the U.S. flag is depicted with the union (stars) to the viewer's right, instead of the usual left (flag's own right); this is to give the impression of the flag moving forward with the wearer. Subdued shoulder sleeve insignia are always worn.
The jacket's Mandarin collar was intended to be worn up in combat to fit with the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) body armor, and worn in the down position otherwise. With the change of pattern to OCP, the hook & loop tab that closed the Mandarin collar was removed, along with other hook & loop closures.
The front closure is zippered and reinforced with hook & loop, designed for use with OTV. The tilted chest pockets, cuffs, and elbow pad insert pockets also utilize hook & loop closure. There is a three slot pen pocket on the left arm of the jacket, and blouse bellows for increased mobility. The jacket is worn so that it bottom is between the bottom of the pocket and the top of the cargo pocket.
In the field, the jacket may be replaced by the flame resistant Army Combat Shirt when worn directly under the IOTV.
The ACU trousers (or ACU pants) are worn with a two-inch nylon web belt, and feature hook-and-loop pouches for knee pad inserts, two forward-tilted thigh storage pockets with elastic drawstring and hook-and-loop for closure during movement, and two calf storage pockets one on each pant leg with a hook-and-loop closure. ACU trousers with flame resistant materials are being issued for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The updates to the ACU trousers in late 2010 included removal of hook-and-loop fasteners from forward-tilted thigh cargo pocket flaps which were replaced with 3 buttons. This change was introduced gradually from 2009 onward and is now in full effect. Two buttons are standard (same function as on BDU trouser cargo pockets), while the third button located at the very end of the pocket can be used to allow for more load and extra volume in cargo pockets. On the small calf pockets the 3-piece hook-and-loop (2 square hook on pocket and one rectangular loop patch on the flap) have been replaced with a single button in 2012. Buttons were re-introduced and replaced hook-and-loop on pockets after numerous complaints from soldiers in the field.
The belt loops are of new design. The width has doubled, and there are now 8 of them compared to 7 in the past. The waist adjustment cord has been removed and replaced by the hook-and-loop waistband fine-adjusters, one at each hip. Instead of a knee pocket which could only accommodate soft knee inserts in the past, the knee area now features multi-layered comprehensive design which allows external hard-type knee pads to be inserted and secured. Back of the knee area has hook-and-loop hook and loop patches to further secure knee inserts around the knee area. Cuffs at the bottom of the trousers do not use drawstrings anymore for blousing; those have been again replaced by the hook-and-loop cuff adjusters. Further changes as part of the transition to OCP removed the pockets for insertable knee pads altogether, along with the replacement of more hook-and-loop with buttons.
To be able to differentiate the FRACU from ACU at a distance, a small square inch tan patch is affixed to the left sleeve cuff on the jacket and the middle of the left cargo pocket flap on the trousers.
A U.S. Army soldier in March 2007, wears a helmet with a UCP camouflage cover during the Iraq War.Typically, the ACU is worn with the Advanced Combat Helmet, a patrol cap, or a boonie hat and/or fleece cap as appropriate in winter months. The patrol cap is a kepi-styled straight-sided, flat-topped soft cap, with a double thick bill and internal pocket. When in garrison, the maroon, tan, and green berets may be worn by paratroopers, Army Rangers, and Army Special Forces respectively. The green micro fleece cap is authorized for field and garrison use outside of unit PT, per local command. A name tape is worn on the back of the patrol cap. Sew-on rank is recommended but pin-on rank is authorized on the ACU Patrol Cap and ACU Boonie Hat. The MICH (Modular Integrated Communications Helmet) Camouflage cover rank must be sewn on if worn but is often not used as the night vision device mount would obstruct it.
The ACU is worn with a moisture-wicking sand colored T-shirt. A Tan 499 T-shirt is authorized with ACU-OCPs, and will become the sole authorized T-shirt upon completion of the full transition to OCP in 2019.
The ACU is worn with tan Army Combat Boots and olive drab cotton socks. Commercial versions of this boot are authorized without limitation, complying with the following regulations—must be 8 to 10 inches in height, be made of tan rough side out cattle hide leather with a plain toe and tan rubber outsoles, and be without zippers, metal cleats, or side tabs. The Mountain Combat Boot is available for difficult terrain, and the Extreme Cold Vapor Barrier Boots for cold weather. As with the T-shirt, coyote brown boots are authorized with OCP and will become the sole boot authorized following the completion of the transition in 2019.
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