Components of Army Combat Uniform | USAMM

Like all soldiers in the various branches of the United States military, members of the U.S. Army have distinctive uniforms to wear when they are actively in service. Currently, their proper attire is referred to as the Army combat uniform, abbreviated as ACU. But it so happens that it is also worn by the U.S. Air Force and the United States Space Force as well. 

The Army Combat Uniform became a uniform requirement back on June 14, 2004. Before the ACU, there was the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) in the 1980s and 1990s, and that was followed by the Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) from the 1990s through to the mid-2000s. But the U.S. Air Force had their own differentiated uniform called the Airman Battle Uniform.

There were multiple changes made from the previous Battle Dress Uniform when creating the Army Combat Uniform: 

  • Mandarin collar that is able to be worn up or down
  • Forward-tilted cargo pockets
  • Two-inch, black nylon web belt
  • Drawstring leg cuff
  • Insignia that displays rank centered on the front of the blouse jacket
  • Upgraded hot-weather desert boot or temperate-weather desert boot
  • Tilted chest pockets with Velcro closure
  • Moisture-wicking socks
  • Integrated blouse bellows for improved upper body mobility
  • Velcro positioned for wearing unit patch, skill tabs, and recognition devices
  • Three-slot pen pocket on the bottom of sleeve
  • Zippered front closure
  • Velcro sleeve cuff closure
  • Elbow pouch for internal elbow pad inserts
  • Shoulder pockets with Velcro
  • Friend or Foe Identification Square put on both the left and right shoulder pocket flap
  • Bellowed calf storage pocket placed on the left and right leg
  • Patrol cap with double-thick bill and internal pocket
  • Moisture-wicking desert tan T-shirt

With the U.S. Army, the U.S. Space Force, and the U.S. Air Force all rocking the Army Combat Uniform with pride as part of their military duties, let’s briefly examine the components of the Army Combat Uniform, from the bottom of their feet to the top of their heads. 

ACU Footwear

The Universal Camouflage Pattern variation of the ACU was worn with tan Army Combat Boots and olive drab cotton socks. Commercial versions of this boot are authorized as long as they are 8 to 10 inches in height, meet the color requirements, and don’t have zippers, metal cleats, or side tabs.

When the roads get rough, the Mountain Combat Boot is available for rugged environments, and there is another ACU footwear option known as the Extreme Cold Vapor Barrier Boots for freezing weather conditions. 

ACU Trousers

The ACU trousers or pants have eight pockets, are held with a two-inch nylon web belt, and have Velcro pouches that are equipped for inserting knee pads. These specialized trousers also offer soldiers a pair of thigh storage pockets with elastic drawstrings, Velcro closures, two calf storage pockets, one on each pant leg with a Velcro closure. Another advancement of ACU trousers for use in Iraq and Afghanistan is having them made with flame-resistant materials.

Two buttons are standard, which matches the functionality of the BDU trouser cargo pockets. There is also a third button positioned at the end of the pocket that allows for extra storage volume in the cargo pockets. 

On the small calf pockets, the 3-piece Velcro (2 square hook on the pocket and one rectangular loop patch on the flap, have been replaced with a single button in 2012. Buttons replaced Velcro on pockets after multiple complaints from soldiers in the field.

In order to be able to differentiate the Fire-Retardant ACU (FRACU) from the regular Army Combat Uniform from a distance, a small square inch tan patch is attached to the left sleeve cuff on the ACU jacket and at the middle of the left cargo pocket flap on the trousers.

ACU Blouse

Originally, the ACU jacket had hook-and-loop-backed attachments to secure name tapes, rank insignia, and shoulder patches, tabs, and recognition devices like the U.S. flag patch and the infrared (IR) tab. Be changes occurred; only pin-on skill badges were allowed to be worn on the Army Combat Uniform, with no more than five at any one time.

During the summer of 2011, regulations were altered to allow for wearing of sew-on embroidered skill badges.

 On the ACU blouse, that contains five pockets. The 5-badge has remained with no mixing of sew-on and pin-on badges. 

Near-Infrared (NIR) Signature Management Technology is integrated into the ACU blouse to reduce the appearance of infrared silhouette out in the field IR IFF squares are permanently sewn to both shoulders to help identify personnel when night vision devices are in use a and are protected by Velcro tabs when they are not in use. While working in the field, the ACU jacket can be replaced by the flame-resistant Army Combat Shirt when it is worn underneath the IOTV.

ACU Headgear

Generally, the ACU headgear consists of the Advanced Combat Helmet, a patrol cap, or a boonie fleece hat during the cold winter months. The patrol cap is a straight-sided, flat-topped soft cap, with a double-thick bill and internal pocket. 

Clearly, military branches go through numerous uniform changes, and the Army Combat Uniform is no different, as the new apparel of the protectors of the United States. If you are in search of Army apparel as a veteran or as a supportive civilian, now you know what to look for.

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