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Preparing for Battle: Afghanistan-bound Airmen to get new uniform

Airmen deploying to Afghanistan are receiving the new Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern uniform. This is the same uniform that was recently provided to U.S. soldiers, like the one shown here, serving in Afghanistan.

Airmen deploying to Afghanistan are receiving the new Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern uniform. This is the same uniform that was recently provided to U.S. soldiers, like the one shown here, serving in Afghanistan.

Citizen Airman/April 2011 -- As of March, Airmen deploying to Afghanistan are receiving a new uniform as part of their deployment gear.

The new uniform is the result of a joint initiative that ensures all outside-the-wire deployers in Afghanistan, regardless of branch of service, have the best ground combat uniform in order to enhance combat effectiveness.

According to Lt. Col. Shawna McGowan, the Air Force Future Programs Branch chief, Air Force leaders collaborated with Army experts to develop a solution to meet evolving camouflage and fire-retardancy demands in theater.

The new uniform, called the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, or OCP, is the same uniform recently fielded in Afghanistan to U.S. Soldiers, Colonel McGowan said.

"At first, Airmen receiving the (Airman Battle System-Ground, or ABS-G) uniforms with mission responsibilities outside the wire in Afghanistan will have priority for the OCP," she said.

But the plan is for the OCP uniform to eventually become the only ground-combat uniform worn by Airmen in Afghanistan both inside and outside the wire, the colonel said. This will minimize the number of bags Airmen will carry into and out of the theater.

"The OCP uniform is scientifically developed to blend in with Afghanistan's terrain, which will make our Airmen safer and more effective on the battlefield," Colonel McGowan said.

The new material is flame resistant and lighter in weight than either the ABS-G or the Airman Battle Uniform, she said. In addition, the material contains a bug repellant.

The colonel said working jointly with the Army to use a tested uniform is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

"It's not only a joint use of the best ground combat uniform available," Colonel McGowan said, "it saves fiscal resources and also aligns with the National Defense Authorization Act language that encourages collaborative efforts between the services."

Since the OCP is replacing the other uniforms, there also will be a savings that will come from not needing to store and supply both the ABS-G and ABU, she said.

This isn't the first time Airmen have worn this particular camouflage pattern in Afghanistan.
"Some Air Force personnel who are assigned to Army units were already issued the OCPs in the Army fielding initiative that began in August," Colonel McGowan said.

Individual units will not be authorized to purchase these uniforms for the foreseeable future, the colonel said.

"The only authorized OCP uniforms are those purchased and issued by Air Force Central Command," Colonel McGowan said. "While some units are interested in procuring the OCP for training, future deployments and such, they won't be authorized to do so because those orders would take away from supplies that are prioritized for the most at-risk deployers."

The colonel emphasized that patience and teamwork are critical during any individual equipment transition. While actions to field the OCP as quickly as possible are ongoing, Airmen should be reassured they will have it as soon as it can be fielded.

She discouraged individuals from purchasing their own uniforms as that could result in them receiving non-tested, non-compliant uniforms that ultimately could put lives at risk.
"Essentially, any unauthorized purchase of the OCP uniforms could result in putting Airmen at risk either on the front lines or at home," Colonel McGowan said.

She said switching to the OCP and having AFCENT as the sole issue point for these uniforms will meet the ultimate goal of ensuring that Airmen are equipped with the best, most advanced uniform available today.