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Marine Corps facing camouflage shortage

US Marines participate in attack rehearsal at Shiroky Lan training center in Ukraine during exercise Sea Breeze 2018, July 13. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan Riley/U.S. Navy)
October 04, 2023

A widespread shortage of camouflage uniforms is forcing the U.S. Marine Corps to allow service members to wear alternative uniforms that are not typically allowed under Marine Corps uniform guidelines.

In a recent Instagram video, Commandant Gen. Eric Smith and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlos Ruiz delivered an update regarding the Marine’s woodland-pattern camouflage uniform shortage. Returning from a recent Indo-Pacific tour, the commandant noted that a common theme discussed by various Marine units was the issue of not being able to obtain enough uniforms.

“That problem is going to stay with us until the fall of 2024 when the manufacturer can fill that backlog that has been created after COVID,” Smith stated in the video. “Until that time, local commanders, battalions, and squadrons are authorized to use FROG gear [Flame Resistant Organizational Gear] or desert cammies to mitigate.”

According to the U.S. Marine Corps Seasonal Uniform Guidance established in 2016, woodland camouflage uniforms serve as the Marine’s standard uniform throughout the year, with certain exceptions granted for training and deployments. From 2008 to 2016, desert camouflage uniforms served as the standard uniform for Marines during the summer months.

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“What we cannot have is a situation where a Marine is wearing unserviceable cammies because that looks bad for the Corps,” Smith added in the video announcement. “And we can’t have a situation where that Marine is given a hard time about those unserviceable cammies. We are going to get this fixed, Marines, but it’s going to take some patience.”

While the Marine Corps is authorizing local battalions and squadrons to allow service members to use alternative uniforms such as desert cammies and FROG gear, the Marine Corps told Marine Corps Times that commanders are to make decisions that “uphold the high standards” of the military branch while allowing service members to maintain “mission readiness” and “reducing the overall impact on daily operations.”

“This does not mean a Marine may make a decision unilaterally to wear a different uniform or civilian attire due to a serviceability issue with their designated uniform of the day,” Maj. John Parry, a Marine spokesman, told Marine Corps Times.

The primary source for the Marine Corps uniforms is American Apparel Inc. According to Marine Corps Times, American Apparel CEO Chuck Lambert said the company has had a difficult time manufacturing enough uniforms to meet the current demand of the military at the fixed price negotiated in the Defense Logistics Agency contract.

Lambert explained that inflation and wage increases have made it difficult to manufacture the uniforms at the current price, resulting in significant shortages throughout the Marine Corps.