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Army Wife Cam Groupie Likes Old Cam Better

The Bread Guy

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My fave line:  "For starters, the digitized camouflage pattern: It's the Army by M.C. Escher, and I'm certain if I stare at it long enough, I'll see a Pegasus emerge."  Enjoy!

Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act - http://www.cb-cda.gc.ca/info/act-e.html#rid-33409

The U.S. Army's fashion fatigue 
Lily Burana, International Herald Tribune, 6 Oct 06

WEST POINT, New York It would be shallow to say that I fell in love with the soldier I married because of his uniform, but it would also be partly true. It's Cupid's oldest trick: Dress a man for war and love walks in.

Every girl who's had her head turned by a uniform has her favorite, and for me there is nothing quite like the command of camouflage. A fitted, heavily starched long jacket and bloused trousers in a dark green, black and brown woodland pattern over polished black boots - the Battle Dress Uniform - is, to me, the American soldier.

But the B.D.U. is being phased out, in favor of the new Army Combat Uniform. Like the brown leather boots of the early Cold War, the Vietnam-era pickle suit and the chocolate chip Desert Storm camo, the B.D.U. will be history. And I will miss it.

My husband and I are, in the eyes of many, an oddly matched Mr. and Mrs., an Army intelligence officer and a pop-culture-obsessed writer.

To paraphrase an old recruiting slogan, ours is not just a marriage, it's an adventure, a two-person cultural exchange program. Because of him, I can identify a Blackhawk, Apache or Chinook helicopter by the sound of the blades slicing the air overhead. Because of me, he exfoliates.

In the beginning, I favored the B.D.U. because it acutely highlighted the differences between us as individuals. Over time, it has also come to underscore the contrast in our roles.

Spouses don't experience firsthand the bombs-and-bullets Army - we see only the ceremonial ribbons-and- medals Army, the workaday pack-and- move-every-few-years Army - and my husband's B.D.U.'s were my connection to the viscera of soldierdom.

They were a reminder of what he is trained for - the brutality of combat, the elegance of tactical maneuver.

So when the futuristic-looking Army Combat Uniform arrived at our house from Ranger Joe's, I wanted to ship it right back out again. Of course, I was pleased about the safety upgrades - these are the first uniforms designed to be worn under body armor - but I confess that I find the loose-fit and foreign-seeming A.C.U. disagreeable on a sensual level.

For starters, the digitized camouflage pattern: It's the Army by M.C. Escher, and I'm certain if I stare at it long enough, I'll see a Pegasus emerge.

Worse still, the Velcro patches on the sleeve of the slouchy, mandarin- collared jacket are set just at the point where my cheek meets my husband's bicep during a hug, so each workday ends with him coming through the door proffering an embrace like an affectionate Brillo pad.

All the B.D.U. thrill is gone: there will be no more starch-stiff sleeves, no more whiffs of bootblack. Instead, it's the rrrrrrrrrip of Velcro, wash-and- wear convenience, and the gentle tread of flexible desert boot soles on the front step.

I've realized that my exaggerated reaction to this uniform conversion is a stand-in for the seismic shifts inherent in Army life, the lurking awareness that no matter how secure his current position may seem, at any time he could get called away to another post, to another assignment, to combat.

The new uniform represents the rattling host of Army-spouse issues writ in versatile, moisture-wicking fabric.

When it comes down to it, my husband's Army uniform isn't just a uniform. What he wears defines him and me, as we stand together.

Yet I sometimes wondered if my outsize attachment was just a personal quirk, until the wife of a noncommissioned officer began to describe his retirement ceremony: "When I saw him up there in his Class A uniform for the last time..."

As her voice trailed off beneath the luncheon din and her eyes shone with welling tears, I knew - the uniform she spoke of was different, but the heart- tug was the same. There we were, two Army wives, under the same sentimental flag and reaching for the Kleenex.

An Army spouse can't break down at every emotional blip - the vicissitudes of the gig don't allow it. Instead, you've got to man up and roll with whatever comes.

The shift in uniform is but another transformation that the military, and my life as a military wife, will undergo.

Eventually my eyes, and heart, will adjust. I may not like this sartorial change on a superficial level, but, assured of greater safety for the troops, I will accept it. The Army marches on, and so, in turn, must I.