Skip to comments.Fort (Huachuca) perfect fit for NATO uniform design team
Posted on 03/11/2007 12:34:52 PM PDT by SandRat
A four-person team from Canada were on Fort Huachuca last week gathering information for a potential new NATO camouflage uniform designed for semi-arid urban terrain. Taking measurements from left were Chad Young, Marie Yelle-Whitwam and Bob Balma. In the background is Lt. Liegh Mathieson. (Bill Hess-Herald/Review)
FORT HUACHUCA — Battlefields are not neat and tidy places to take a casual stroll.
Be it in an open field or a crowded city street, soldiers are constantly in danger from a well-aimed gun shot or an explosive device triggered by a opponent. How to veil their presence from an enemy as long as possible has always been the aim of soldiers, either as individuals or as a group on patrol.
Military leaders have found that a soldier’s uniform is a critical part of an individual’s protective gear, and not just from the extremes in weather.
It’s just as important to be able to blend into the background and become as invisible for as long as possible, which is the bailiwick of those involved in the world of visual science and technology.
For a quartet of Canadians, the need to develop a semi-arid urban terrain uniform pattern led them to Fort Huachuca last week.
Bob Balma, who works for the camouflage concealment and deception office of the Canadian Department of National Defence, led the group.
“We needed an urban environment in a semi-arid area, and Fort Huachuca is perfect,” he said.
Having a Canadian liaison officer, Maj. Doug Bugeaud, assigned to the post helped, Balma said.
But it is not just a Canadian project. Canada has been given the job of leading development of a uniform for urban areas in regions such as Iraq and Afghanistan that can possibly be used by other NATO nations.
The Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia and Switzerland also are part of the current uniform development consortium. Balma said Switzerland is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace group but not part of the alliance’s military organization.
Camouflage is a science, Balma said. It’s not just a matter of splattering colors on a piece of cloth. And it’s not just a matter of cutting a pattern from a colored cloth and sizing it to fit a soldier.
The trick is to fool an enemy’s eye with a pattern that appears to be something it isn’t.
“A pattern has to be (visually) disruptive,” he remarked.
To that end, different colors are used. Just because a semi-arid area looks like it is primarily browns and tans, that doesn’t mean those colors will be the only ones that are used, Balma said. Other color hues are needed.
The use of camouflage came into its own during World War I.
One American writer noted that after the war a friend put on a helmet and raincoat “both painted with a dadaistic confusion of reds, greens, yellows, blues and browns,” which led the 6-foot-2-inch man to disappear before his eyes.
As Balma spoke, Chad Young, a defense scientist, and Marie Yelle-Whitman, a defense engineer, gathered photographic information and measurements as Lt. Liegh Mathieson stood against one of the stone and stucco buildings on the fort.
Near the lieutenant was a color panel with hues of the colors of the rainbow on it.
Although the United States is not part of the eight-nation uniform group, American and other members can use what is developed since they are NATO members.
The American Army’s main combat uniform is a combination of gray, green and white. Other U.S. services have different patterns and colors.
Balma said a design will be developed and uniforms will be made.
For now, it’s about getting information to create those uniforms.
“We are gathering color data and spectral data that will be sent to each of the NATO nations,” Balma said.
And there is an artistic sense in preparing a design, Balma said.
Mathieson said the uniform material must be proper for the dyes as well as for the pattern developed.
“The material must hold the pattern,” he said.
Once test uniforms are made, they will be put on mannequins. The Canadian group, along with some other NATO consortium members, is expected to return to Fort Huachuca later this year to see if the results are what was sought.
Mathieson, who has served in Afghanistan, brought the human goal into focus, saying that having the best camouflage uniform is an integral part of a soldier’s protection.
“If we can provide one second more of protection it may save a life. We can never have enough protection,” he said.
Quick history of camouflage
Camouflage is a fairly new part of military history.
The word camouflage comes from the French “camoufler,” which mean to blind or veil, coming into vogue during World War I.
Using camouflage is meant to provide protective concealment by disguising an object or person in plain sight.
Gone are the days of the bright, gaudy combat uniforms of armies. Today’s militaries favor more muted colors.
During Word War I, the French Army gave up its blue and red field uniforms when the conflict literally went into the trenches.
The French developed a camouflage division, calling upon artists to develop patterns, mostly to hide equipment from the prying eyes of the Germans.
The British did the same thing.
When the United States entered the war, American artists were called upon to become camouflage painters. One of them was Grant Wood, whose most famous painting is “American Gothic.”
Camouflage uniform patterns have been described as cubism in which artists such as Picasso would be comfortable in rendering.
HERALD/REVIEW senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
NATO planning on attacking Arizona ;-)
Our military has really taken to their Camies these days. They wear them during press conferences and even when testifying before congress.
The new cammies make them harder to hit with the flying bullcrap that goes on in congress hearings.
And when they do hit it makes the mess a lot less obvious.
Changes in regulations now allow wearing the DCU and other everyday uniforms in places that used to require the Class A or Class B.
Not to mention the fact that BDU's don't require dry cleaning. The lack of tie is probably a big factor, it would be for me.
As a soldier, I find that information very interesting. After 7.5 months in the Army, I've only worn my Class B and Class A once each for an official function (other than inspections), which was graduation in each instance. I like wearing ACUs. A lot of people think I'm crazy because I don't immediately switch to civilian clothes when the duty day is over. The Class A uniform looks good, and you get to proudly show your decorations, but I am always afraid of messing it up.
Would you happen to know what the changes in regulations are? Can you direct me to a point of reference?
Also, by the way, I am at Fort Huachuca itself right now. I will continue to be here for at least another 5 weeks.
Thanks for one of the best laughs of late! The troops need every bit of support they can get since the Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, and Lefty organizations like ANSWER are slinging their entire ammo dump!
Canada has desert?
Thank you for your service!
Where's your AIT? Mine was at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO in '76.
You are why so many of us doing rallies each week! I'll be going up against probably 2500 to 3000 ANSWER idiots on Saturday in Hollywood, and it is all because of you! So take care, and know that we are out here!
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