The Army Service Uniform (ASU) is the military uniform worn by United States Army personnel in situations where formal dress is called for. It is worn in most workday situations in which business dress would be called for, while the Army Combat Uniform is used in combat situations. It can be worn at most public and official functions. The blue ASU was adopted for optional wear in 2008. It was issued to new soldiers starting in the fall of 2010, and must be worn army-wide after 1 October 2014. The ASU is replacing two uniforms already in use – the "army green" service uniform and the "army white" service uniform. It will be based on the current dress uniform known as the "dress blue" uniform. It has its roots in the "army blue" uniform, which dates back to the Revolutionary War, in which the Continental Army outfitted its soldiers in blue to distinguish them from the red uniform coats of the British Army. It also recalls the Civil War Union Army's blue uniforms.
- 1 History
- 2 Current and recent service uniforms
- 3 New service uniform
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 External links
- 1774: Blue Continental Army coat, with state facing colors, and white waistcoat and breeches or overalls. (Historical Note/Ref: The origin of "blue" as the primary uniform color is earlier during the Colonial period of the Continental Association or First Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia, PA and adjourned on Oct 26, 1774.) George Washington was the appointed Presiding Officer.
While Washington was in Philadelphia, one hundred neighbors in Fairfax County (VA), under the tutelage of George Mason, had organized themselves into a voluntary militia—probably the first in the colony—electing Washington their commander. Borrowing the colors of the English Whig party, the Fairfax Independent Company wore blue uniforms with buff facings and white stockings.
Washington used Thomas Webb’s A Military Treatise on the Appointments of the Army as a guide for outfitting this particular unit. Washington would soon accept the additional field command of another four independent companies: in Prince William, Fauquier, Richmond, and Spotsylvania Counties.
- 1782: Red facings only with branch of service white (infantry) or yellow (artillery) metal buttons.
- 1810: French uniform coat with cut-in skirt fastened in front; sleeved roundabout jacket for fatigue and field service.
- 1813: Uniform coat devoid of buttonhole lace and facing colors.
- 1821: Congressional confirmation of army wear of national blue; practical gray wool pantaloons for the winter mud, a tradition of contrasting shades.
- 1829: Undress frock (full round skirt) coat in place of officer's civilian clothes.
- 1832: Branch of service cap insignia, gold or silver officer grade insignia on epaulettes and sky-blue trousers for all but staff and generals.
- 1835: Shoulder straps, used to hold fringed epaulettes, with undress, officer grade.
- 1851: French frock (full skirt) coat only uniform, trimmed in system of branch of service colors.
- 1854: New waist-length uniform jacket for mounted troops
- 1872: Blouse for garrison and field, uniform coat for dress, with epaulettes for generals.
- 1881: Dark blue flannel overshirt often in place of blouse on field service.
- 1885: Sky-blue kersey trousers, aniline dye richer shade than original vegetable dye.
- 1895: Officer's undress sack coat, with black trim; branch of service insignia and national cypher "U.S." on collar,with national eagle on cap.
- 1902: Olive drab wool and khaki cotton service uniforms introduced; blue retained only for dress, full dress, mess dress, and special evening dress, trimmed with branch of service color.
- 1917: wearing of blue dress, full dress and mess dress uniforms suspended.
- 1928: Return of pre-war blue dress uniforms with new visor cap, optional at expense of wearer.
- 1938: Officer's blue roll-collar coat adopted, with branch of service-color trim and dress belt (from full dress coat).
- 1940: No blue uniform required during emergency (end of saber).
- 1947: President Harry S. Truman note on lack of dress uniform and return of pre-war pattern; evening dress uniform cuff with single gold lace and insignia of grade.
- 1953: Post-war officer and EM pattern with patch pockets; no traditional branch of service color trim on EM uniform and officers' trousers stripes.
- 1956: Distinctive uniform for bands and honor guards.
- 1957: Women's army blue uniform same cut as 1951 Taupe-121 uniform.
- 1959: Army blue uniforms for year-round wear.
- 1962: Women's army blue same as army green uniform, with new service hat.
- 1963: Mandatory possession of officer's army blue uniform.
- 1972: Officers' mess jacket cuff ornamentation simplified to resemble that of 1947 evening dress (grade insignia replaced branch insignia; single strand of gold lace replaced multiple ones which previously showed grade).
- 2012: All of U.S. Army transitioned to blue service uniform.
In the early days of the U.S. Army, the uniform worn in combat was essentially the same as that worn for everyday duties. This was the common practice with most armies of the time. This changed in modern times, as field uniforms were developed which were more suited for battle.
During the Civil War era, army uniforms were relatively simple. Typically, the same uniform served as a garrison uniform and as a combat uniform. Combat soldiers in the Civil War wore a standard dark blue coat, just like personnel in garrisons or in army offices and headquarters. In the first half of the war, many states supplied their regiments with uniforms, resulting in distinctive jackets and buttons. Rank was indicated by a shoulder strap for officers, and chevrons on the sleeves for non-commissioned officers. Branch or specialty could be indicated by the color of the enlisted badge of rank, or the background color for officers' shoulder straps. Uniform standards were relaxed during the war years, especially on campaign, and men often wore a variety of hats in the field.
The 1899 Army Uniform Regulations provided for a cotton khaki uniform for field service, drawing on the experience of the Spanish-American War when both blue and drab clothing had been worn. From 1902 to 1917, the army had two uniforms: a service uniform of wool olive drab Melton cloth for use by soldiers in the field, and a blue dress uniform used for ceremonies and off-post wear by enlisted men.
Lieutenant General Edmund B. Gregory, the Quartermaster General, pointed out in 1946 that World War One uniforms had changed from a comfortable loose-fitting garment to a tight-fitting uniform suitable only for garrison wear. At the outbreak of the war, the army had to develop new loose-fitting patterns which the men could live in, as well as muster on the parade ground. Gregory noted that this gradual change to a tight-fitting uniform in peacetime has been characteristic of the history of uniforms in all armies.
Around 1940, soldiers began to use special uniforms designed for combat or field operations, with numerous special equipment and packs. The M-1941 Field Jacket was one of the first clothing items which was approved specifically for use in the field, and which was not meant to be part of a standard service uniform.
After this, service uniforms started to become more elaborate, as they were not needed to be useful in combat, and could take on a unique appearance, with new features and embellishments. Units began to display their own special patches, and badges were added for various specialties. Among the earliest unit patches was for the 81st Infantry Division. This unit trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. They created patches showing a wildcat, so that they could identify each other quickly in combat. Some officers questioned this, but General John Pershing decided it was a good idea, so the army started to implement it for all units. The first commendation ever used by the US armed forces was the original Purple Heart, designed personally by George Washington. It was originally a medal for valor, and at the time was the only one issued by the US Army. It fell out of use after the American Revolution, but was later revived and became the modern commendation for wounds in battle, which is how it is used today. World War One was the first time that the army began to award a variety of medals and decorations, except for the Medal of Honor, which was first awarded during the Civil War.
The combat infantryman badge and the expert infantryman badge were created in 1943 by the United States Secretary of War. The combat infantryman badge was originally awarded for valor in combat. In 1947, every soldier who earned it was given a Bronze Star, and since then, it is awarded for having participated in ground combat.
Current and recent service uniforms
Green Service Uniform
The main current service uniform is known as the green service uniform or "class A's." The Army reviewed various ideas in the late 1940s in order to create a distinctive uniform. Many civilian workers were mistaken for Army personnel, due to massive use of army surplus clothing after World War II.
Army commissions reviewed various factors of design, durability and appearance. Blue was considered because of its acceptance in men's clothing, but it would then have been too difficult to distinguish it from Air Force and Navy service uniforms and the Marine Corps and Navy dress uniforms. Several colors were reviewed, and finally green (shade 44) was designated the basic color for new dress uniforms. The distinctive green color of the uniform led to its being referred to pejoratively by troops as the "pickle suit." The green uniform has been worn with minor variations since its official adoption in 1954. The green color was adopted in order to provide a color which was more military, and distinct from various uniforms of civilian service workers. It is scheduled to be discontinued in 2014. It features a jacket with four buttons. Enlisted soldiers wear insignia denoting their branch of service on their collars. Officers wear two sets of insignia consisting of the letters "US" on their collars and their branch on their lapels.
Proficiency badges, such as the marksman's badge, are worn on the upper left pocket flap. Above this are the ribbons for medals and commendations which have been earned for various actions, duties and training. Above the ribbons are qualification badges, such as the parachutist badges and combat action badge. A nametag is worn on the upper right pocket flap. Unit awards and foreign awards are worn above the pocket, with a regimental insignia above both. Special duty badges, such as the recruiter badge, are worn on the upper two pockets of the jacket; the side on which they are worn varies by badge.
On each shoulder of the uniform are unit patches. The left side will have the patch of the soldier's current unit assignment. The right shoulder may have the patch of a unit to which the soldier has previously been assigned while deployed to a combat zone; soldiers with multiple previous combat assignments may choose which patch to wear. Tabs indicating ranger, special forces, or sapper qualification, if applicable, are worn above the unit patch on the left shoulder. A similar "airborne" tab is worn immediately above the unit patch if the command is designated as airborne, irrespective of whether the individual soldier is qualified as a paratrooper. As the shoulder sleeve insignia generally indicates merely the general-officer command to which the soldier is assigned, the soldier's immediate battalion or intermediate-level command may be indicated by distinctive unit insignia of metal and enamel, on the soldier's epaulets.
The Army green service uniform ceased to be issued in the fall of 2010. Only the new blue ASU is now being issued. The Army green service uniform will be withdrawn after July 2014.
White service uniform
Another uniform, the Army white uniform, was the army's equivalent to the dress white uniform worn by officers in the U.S. Navy, but unlike the navy, which mandates the owning and wearing of the white uniform throughout the summer months (year round in tropical locations) by all ranks (E-1 to O-10), the Army white uniform is an optional uniform, and is only required to be purchased by officers and sergeants major assigned to posts in the tropics and the southern United States.
Introduced in 1902 as a summer undress uniform, its wearing, along with the dress and undress blue, was suspended during World War I and was reintroduced in its present form, along with the modern-day dress blue uniform, in 1938. In its original (1902) form the white uniform included a standing collar and white flat braid trimming the coat edges. The 1938 model substituted a white coat without braid and with an open-fronted peak lapel worn with a white shirt and black tie.
With the impending hostilities of World War II, production of both the blue and white dress uniforms were suspended, but the Army white uniform itself served as a model for the class "A" Army tan uniform, which was introduced in 1942 (replacing a belted version designed around the Sam Browne Belt) and discontinued in 1968 (the shirt & trousers "class B" uniform was replaced with the Army green class "B" uniform in 1985), the post-war belt-less Army blue uniform, and the present-day Army green uniform, which replaced the World War II "Pinks & Greens" and "Ike Jacket" uniforms in 1956. Like the Army green uniform, the Army white uniform features a main jacket with four buttons, worn with matching white trousers and service cap, but unlike the Army green uniform, no unit patches, specialty tabs, or the black beret are worn. Officers wear their silver or gold-colored rank insignia pinned onto the shoulder epaulets, while enlisted personnel wear gold-on-white rank insignia and service stripes on both sleeves as that on the Army blue uniform. A white dress shirt and either a black bow tie or four-in-hand necktie, for formal and semi-formal functions, is worn.
The Army white service uniform will be withdrawn after July 2014.
New service uniform
The Army currently has three service uniforms; green, blue, and white. As of fall 2010, enlisted soldiers receive the blue service uniform as part of their basic clothing bag issue when they enter the Army during initial entry training. The Army further provides active duty enlisted soldiers an annual clothing allowance to maintain proper fit and appearance of their basic clothing bag issue items. The Army includes a series of stipends in this annual clothing allowance towards the replacement of the green service uniform and all basic clothing bag items. For enlisted soldiers, the blue service uniform is an optional wear item, purchased if desired, and worn on appropriate occasions. Certain honor guards and bands wear the blue service uniform in the performance of duty; enlisted soldiers assigned to such billets are issued the blue service uniform at no charge.
Commissioned officers are given a one time stipend when commissioned to purchase their required uniform items. Officers then maintain proper fit and appearance of their uniform items throughout their career. The Army requires officers to purchase and maintain both the green and blue service uniforms.
To streamline the number of uniforms soldiers purchase and maintain throughout their careers, the Army will phase out the green and white service uniforms and retain the blue service uniform as the army service uniform. Soldiers who currently have a blue service uniform can immediately begin wearing this uniform as their ASU.
The ASU was announced in 2006 by then Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker, and will serve as the U.S. Army's dress, garrison, and ceremonial uniform. Once the new army uniform is phased in, the only green uniforms remaining in the U.S. armed forces will be the olive green Marine Corps service uniform.
The new Army service dress made its "debut" at the 2007 State of the Union Address when General Schoomaker wore his army blue uniform. The new uniform uses the current "army blue" uniform as a model. Accordingly in terms of color the uniform will resemble the campaign uniforms worn by soldiers during the Mexican-American War, American Civil War, Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War prior to the introduction of khaki uniforms in the 1890s (phased out in 1985) and olive drab uniforms in 1902 (phased out and replaced with "army green" between 1955 and 1957), making the blue uniform a dress uniform. Dress uniforms of dark blue tunics and light blue trousers were worn by all ranks until 1917 and reintroduced in a modernized form (with open collar and tie) for officers and warrant officers in 1937.
The new ASU will include a new coat and low waist trousers for male soldiers; and a new coat, slacks and skirt for female soldiers. The new fabric for the ASU is heavier and more wrinkle resistant than previously manufactured uniforms and will consist of 55% wool and 45% polyester material. The new ASU coat will have a tailored, athletic cut to improve uniform fit and appearance. The ASU will include a new improved heavier and wrinkle resistant short and long-sleeved white shirt with permanent military creases and shoulder loops. The army encourages soldiers and leaders who own the current army blue uniform to wear it, when appropriate, as their dress, class "A", or class "B" Uniform. The fielding of the new uniform policy establishes a class "B" uniform category for the current army blue uniform as part of its bridging strategy. The class "B" uniform category defines those ASU items worn without the service coat.
The dress blue ASU for males includes the blue coat and trousers and a long-sleeved white shirt with black tie. The dress blue ASU for females includes the blue coat, skirt, and a long-sleeved white shirt with black neck tab. Currently, females in army bands, honor guards, and female chaplains are authorized to wear army blue slacks in the performance of their duties. The black beret and service cap are authorized for wear with this uniform. Combat boots and organizational items, such as brassards, military police accessories and distinctive unit insignia are not worn. All other accessories and insignia authorized for wear with the class "A" service uniform are authorized for wear on the dress blue ASU.
When the dress blue ASU is worn for social events in the evening (i.e. after retreat), men may wear a black bow tie rather than a black four-in-hand necktie, and commanders may direct that headgear is not required.
ALARACT 202/2008 specifies that the "dress blue ASU" for men includes a "black bowtie." It makes no mention of the black four-in-hand necktie in connection with the "dress blue ASU." Since, according to paragraph 10 of the same ALARACT and paragraph 27-19a of AR 670-1, the bow tie is worn only after retreat, this text suggests that the "dress blue ASU" is not conceived of as a uniform order for the daytime, that the "dress blue ASU" for males is not an all-hours uniform including an evening variant with bow tie, and that the "class A ASU" is the highest order of dress for daytime wear.
Class "A" ASU
The class "A" ASU includes the army blue coat and trousers/skirt/slacks, a short or long sleeve white shirt and four-in-hand necktie (male)/neck tab (female). (for accessories and other items authorized for wear on the class "A" ASU see ASU accessory items authorized for wear paragraph below.)
Class "B" ASU
The class "B" ASU includes the army blue trousers/skirt/slacks, a short or long sleeve white shirt. Soldiers will wear the four-in-hand necktie with the long sleeve white shirt when it is worn without the class "A" coat. (for accessories and other items authorized for wear on the class "B" ASU see insignias, awards, badges and accoutrements worn with the dress blue, class "A", and class "B" ASU paragraphs below). Until the new ASU items are available, soldiers who have the low waist trousers with belt loops, or slacks, have the option of wearing a commercial short sleeve white shirt with shoulder loops in the open collar configuration or with a four-in-hand necktie (black neck tab for female soldiers). Soldiers have the option of wearing a commercial long sleeve white shirt with shoulder loops and a four-in-hand necktie (black neck tab for female soldiers). Soldiers who have the current commercial white shirt without shoulder loops must wear as appropriate, the black wind breaker, black pullover or black cardigan sweaters with this uniform.
Soldiers who have the high waist blue trousers worn with suspenders (designed to wear with the blue mess uniform) may wear these trousers with the current ASU during this transition period. These high waist trousers must be worn with the service coat, black wind breaker, black pullover or black cardigan sweaters.
The mandatory possession date for the new ASU items is final quarter of Fiscal Year 2014.
- The ASU consists of the following items:
- Trousers, Low Waist With Belt Loops (male soldiers)
- Slacks, Low Waist (female soldiers)
- Skirt (female soldiers)
- Belt and buckle
- Black combat boots (optional for wear with class "A" and class "B" uniforms for soldiers authorized to wear the tan, green, or maroon berets, those assigned to air assault coded positions, and military police soldiers performing MP duties.)
- Black bow tie (worn after retreat)
- Black cape (officer only)
- Blue cape (officer only)
- Chaplain's apparel
- Gold cuff links and studs
- Black all-weather coat
- Black leather dress gloves (worn with black all weather coat or black wind breaker)
- White dress gloves
- Black handbag
- Black shoulder bag
- Black clutch
- Drill sergeant hat (authorized for wear with class "A" and class "B" uniforms)
- Judge's apparel
- Military police accessories (not authorized with the formal class "A" ASU)
- Black necktie (worn on duty)
- Neck tabs
- Black scarf (only with black all weather coat or black windbreaker)
- White long-sleeve shirt
- White short-sleeve shirt
- Black shoes
- Black pumps
- Black cushioned socks (worn with boots only)
- Black dress socks (worn with trousers/slacks)
- Sheer stockings
- Black pullover sweater
- Black unisex Cardigan
- White undergarments
- Black umbrella (female soldiers may carry and use an umbrella, only during inclement weather, when wearing the dress blue ASU. Umbrellas are not authorized in formations or when wearing field or utility uniforms)
- Black windbreaker (only with class "B" uniform)
Insignia, awards, badges and accoutrements
- Service aiguillettes (officers only) (not authorized on the class "B" ASU)
- Airborne background trimming
- Branch of service scarf (not authorized on the enlisted formal class "A" service uniform)
- Branch insignia (not authorized on the class "B" ASU)
- Brassards (not authorized on the dress blue ASU)
- Combat service identification badge (CSIB). Worn when available in place of the ASU's shoulder sleeve insignia. The CSIB will be worn centered on the wearer's right breast pocket of the ASU coat for male soldiers; female soldiers wear the CSIB on the right side parallel to the waistline on the ASU coat. The CSIB is ranked fifth in order of precedence below the Presidential, Vice-Presidential, Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badges. The CSIB can also be worn on the shirt when wearing the class "B" versions of the ASU
- Decorations and ribbons
- Distinctive items authorized for infantrymen
- Distinctive unit insignia (enlisted only)(authorized for wear on the class "A" and class "B" uniforms only)
- Foreign badges
- Fourragere lanyards
- Gold Star lapel pin
- Headgear insignia
- Rank insignia
- Officer candidate and warrant officer candidate insignia.
- Organizational flash
- Overseas service bars (optional)
- Distinctive regimental insignia (optional)
- Service stripes (enlisted personnel only)
- Unit awards
- U.S. badges (identification, marksmanship, combat and special skill)
- U.S. Inisgnia (not authorized on the class "B" ASU)
- Black, maroon, tan, or green beret.
- Service cap (male/female; corporals and above)
- Officer and enlisted soldiers in the grade of corporal and above will wear trousers with a gold braid sewn on the outside of seam of each trouser leg of the new blue ASU. The braid will be sewn from the bottom of the waistband to the bottom of the trouser leg (soldiers assigned to the Old Guard are authorized the gold braid regardless of grade).
- On the new ASU, service stripes are authorized for wear on the left sleeve for enlisted soldiers and Overseas Service Bars on the right sleeve for both officers and enlisted soldiers. The service stripes and Overseas Service Bars are similar in size to the ones currently worn on the army green uniform. The new service stripes and Overseas Service Bars will be gold in color and trimmed in blue to match the ASU. During the transition to the new ASU, the traditional larger service stripes on the optional white and blue (short jacket) mess dress uniform will be maintained.
- The current (old) blue uniform remains authorized for wear until the final quarter of Fiscal Year 2014.
- Soldiers who have the current (old) blue uniform are not required to remove the existing large service stripes.
- Privates through specialists who now own the current blue trousers are not required to remove the existing gold braid on their trouser legs.
- Until the last quarter of Fiscal Year 2014 official photos can be in either the army green service uniform or the blue ASU.
- The wear out date for the army green service uniform with accessories is the 4th quarter of Fiscal Year 2014.
- All new insignia worn on the ASU will be designed and developed by the United States Army Institute of Heraldry.
- AR 670-1, Wear and Appearance of the Army Uniform Insignia
- Chernow, Ron (5 October 2010). Washington: A Life. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-59420-266-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=Wnc3V5m9kqgC&pg=PT211. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
- Chernow, p.174
- Randy Steffen. The Horse Soldier, Vol. 4, page 66. UE443.S83.
- Randy Steffen, page 69 Volume III, "The Horse Soldier 1776-1943"
- The Army Dressed Up, 1952, Dr. Stephen J. Kennedy, The Quartermaster Review, January/February 1952, Army Clothing History page, Army Quartermaster Foundation, Inc. Website, accessed 4-9-08.
- Pride important for US soldiers, by Lee Berry, Univ. of Mississippi.
- TIOH Bronze Star page
- Prestige of the Soldier, By Major A. M. Kamp, JR. The Quartermaster Review - May/June 1954, Quartermaster foundation, accessed 4-9-08.
- The Army Green Uniform, by Stephen J. Kennedy and Alice F. Park, March 1968, Clothing and Organic Materials Laboratory, U.S. Army Natick Laboratories, accessed 4-9-08.
- Moore, Michael (Major) (August 7, 2011). "Remembering the Fallen". Army Strong Stories. Army Marketing and Research Group. http://armystrongstories.com/blogger/michael-moore/remembering-the-fallen#.Ub1bZecm20c. Retrieved 16 June 2013. "There was a first weekend in the Army for me...My first uniforms were 2 sets of BDU, and one set of OG109's, the "Pickle Suit" that made you look like "Beetle Bailey.""
- Army Regulations No.600-38, War Department Washington August 17, 1938
- Section 19, Regulations and Notes for the Uniform of the Army of the United States 1902
- ALARACT 202/2008.
- (PARA 27-2B AND 2D, AND 27-25)
- (PARA 27-3)
- (PARA 27-19A)
- (PARA 27-4)
- (PARA 27-6A)
- (PARA 27-6B)
- (PARA 27-7)
- (PARA 27-10)
- (PARA 27-8)
- (PARA 27-12B)
- (PARA 27-12C)
- (PARA 27-13B)
- (PARA 27-13D)
- (PARA 27-13A)
- (PARA 27-14A)
- (PARA 27-15)
- (PARA 27-19C)
- (PARA 27-18)
- (PARA 27-21A)
- (PARA 27-22C)
- (PARA 27-22A)
- (PARA 27-23A)
- (PARA 27-23F AND 23G)
- (PARA 27-24A)
- (PARA 27-24B)
- (PARA 27-24D)
- (PARA 27-27)
- (PARA 27-26A)
- (PARA 27-28)
- (PARA 27-30)
- (PARA 28-25) AND (28-26)
- (PARA 28-31B)
- (PARA 28-20)
- (PARA 28-10 AND 28-12A)
- (PARA 28-29)
- (PARA 29-18)
- (PARA 29-7, 29-8 AND 29-9)
- (PARA 28-30)
- (PARA 28-22)
- (PARA 29-19)
- (PARA 28-11)
- (PARA 29-7)
- (PARA 28-3)
- (PARA 28-5, 28-6, 28-7 AND 28-8)
- (PARA 28-14 AND 28-15)
- (PARA 28-24C)
- (PARA 28-31A)
- (PARA 28-28)
- (PARA 28-23)
- (PARA 28-27)
- (PARA 29-11)
- (PARA 29- 13, 29-16, 29-17 AND 29-18)
- (PARA 28-4)
- Army service uniform website
- Army page
- Army Clothing History articles from the Quartermaster Foundation
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