Camo Uniforms in Afghanistan – The British Controversy

Someone at The Daily Mail has obviously read Michael Yon’s recent Blog about life with the Rifles Regiment near the Sangin River in Helmand Province. 


Next thing you know, there’s a story in the Daily Mail about another “MoD blunder”.  This one, according to the paper, is that the MoD sent the troops off to Afghanistan with the wrong camouflage for their AOR. 


Over-dyed DDPM UBACS 

mixed camo 

According to the Daily Mail story, soldiers of the Rifles Regiment in Helmand province have resorted to to trying to over-dye their shirts becuase they’re located in river-bed areas that are quite lush with vegetation and their full desert pattern gear and uniforms stand out too much. 

Reversed camo combination 

Mixed camo for a mixed environment 

However, I suspect that this situation has less to do with an “MoD blunder” and more to do with the fact that the British Army has designated all of Afghanistan as an arid / desert region.  Therefore, the Quartermaster Corps packs all the troops deployed to the theatre with only a full set of desert kit.  Now, to be fair, you can easily imagine the complications and difficulties of issuing every soldier with complete sets of both Temperate and Desert DPM kit.  At the very least, it would mean that the poor Tommies would be loaded down with almost double the already massive loads that they have to contend with.

desert kit 

For what its worth, the Royal Marines seem to have twigged right from the start that Afghanistan has a mix of vegetated and arid terrain.  Photos from the days of Operation Enduring Freedom show them wearing a mixture of Temperate DPM tops and Desert DPM bottoms.  And despite what the Daily Mail has reported, at least some of the Marines’ more recently arrived colleagues from the Army have come equipped to copy that look.

Jungle DPM shirt 


Looking at these photos you can kind of see why this whole question of the camouflage pattern used for troops’ uniforms has become such a big issue in the US.  The photo below also shows how the US Marines (with their seperate desert and woodland pattern uniforms) are in the same boat as the British.

US Marines in Helmand

On the other hand, I have it on good authority that the Afghan National Army will soon be revealing their new camouflage pattern for combat uniforms.  It will be a digital woodland-esque pattern called “Afghan Forest” and is intended partly to distinguish them from the foreign troops who mostly wear desert camo uniforms, and partly becuase of the mixed terrain in Afghanistan.  Allegedly, the uniforms have also been treated with the latest, most effective, anti-IR treatment to make them all but invisible to the kinds of NVGs available to the Taliban.

It all reminds me of that great moment in the film “A Bridge Too Far” when Colonel John Frost (played by Anthony Hopkins), having arrived at Arnhem bridge (in an urban area), turns to one his men – whilst glancing up at his scrim covered helmet – and says, “You know chaps, its just occurred to me that we’re wearing entirely the wrong camouflage.”

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