The Army fleece jacket. Like the black beret, although not nearly quite as controversial, this uniform item has managed to stir up a lot of misinformation, unit-level punitive actions and a whole lot of “alphas charlies” from some senior non-commissioned officers.
Could it be that the Army fleece jacket drama has been caused by some soldiers misidentifying what a fleece jacket really is? Or is all this perceived errant uniform wear caused by defiant E-4 mafia types who refuse to conform?
Black Army Fleece Jacket
In order to understand what’s happening today with the Army fleece jacket, we have to go back to the start of the Global War on Terrorism when the Army introduced the black Army fleece jacket.
Overseas, in places like Iraq, the black Army fleece jacket was worn in a variety of manners depending on what unit leaders stipulated. Some soldiers wore it as an undergarment, as another layer of insulation under the desert M-65 field jacket, while others wore it as an outer garment, with no rank or name tape attached.
The black Army fleece jacket lived on for several years in this conditional existence. Overseas in a deployed location where usually most intelligent military minds are concerned with the preservation of life, mission objectives and morale, the black Army fleece jacket continued to see mixed applicability. Stateside, in garrison, attention to detail and military standards ruled and the black Army fleece found usability, but because it lacked identifying features, like name tapes and rank, and those pockets were a great place to put your hands when you forgot your gloves, it fell out of favor with leaders, specifically with some first sergeants and command sergeants major.
This continued as digital camouflage uniforms came and went in the U.S. Army. The black Army fleece jacket somehow survived, its users and the Army distracted by multiple deployments to different fronts. The debate continued. Was the black Army fleece jacket an outer garment or something worn inside of an outer garment as an added layer of warmth and insulation?
Green Army Fleece Jacket
Enter the green Army fleece jacket. This matched the digital pattern colors of the Army Combat Uniform and it seemed to satisfy, at least for a little while, naysayers of the black Army fleece jacket who argued for name, rank and service identification on the black Army fleece jacket. The green Army fleece jacket took care of that discrepancy.
The green Army fleece jacket included hook-and-loop foundations where soldiers could add their name tapes, U.S. Army tape, as well as their rank onto the green Army fleece jacket. Most in the ranks considered the Army fleece jacket debate resolved with the addition of the identification patches. Many assumed that since the Army was placing name, rank and the U.S. Army tape on the green Army fleece jacket, that the jacket was automatically considered an outer garment. But that would have made sense; it would have been logical.
As troops returned home from fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army fleece jacket dispute raged. The garrison mentality defied logic and despite the addition of hook-and-loop patches, many still argued that the green Army fleece jacket was meant to be worn as a layered garment underneath a field jacket or some other type of external garment.
Some argued that fleece was not weatherproof and therefore not an appropriate outer garment. Snow or cold rain would make the green Army fleece jacket soggy and, in turn, it had the potential of making soldiers sick because they wore damp, cold clothing for any extended time.
Others who wore the green Army fleece jacket in moderately cold assignments argued that the jacket was perfect for their locales given they weren’t exposed to rain or snow. Those who only wore the green Army fleece jacket for short periods, like walking to their car from the office or maybe to walk into the post exchange or chow hall for lunch, didn’t have to worry about the challenges facing those who might wear it outside for extended periods of time.
Coyote Brown Generation III Fleece Jacket
As the Army’s combat uniform changed to OCP, the Army added the coyote brown Army fleece jacket to its inventory. Like the green Army fleece jacket, the coyote brown Army fleece jacket had hook-and-loop foundations for rank, name and U.S. Army patches and once again, because of this, many assumed that the coyote brown Army fleece jacket was an outer garment. But the old arguments persisted.
The coyote brown Army fleece jacket, officially named the U.S. Army Coyote Brown Generation III ECWCS Fleece Jacket / Liner are a part of the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System. Notice how it is named a jacket/liner? Meaning, it can be used in both ways, as a jacket or as a jacket liner. The Army says they can be used as a stand-alone jacket or as an additional layer of insulation. The jacket is made of a technologically advanced fabric that is quick drying and breathable.
The Chain of Command Decides
Finally, on January 26, 2021, the U.S. Army issued guidance in Department of the Army Pamphlet 670-1, Guide to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. Notice that doesn't say Army Regulation 670-1. There is no mention of the Army fleece jacket in AR 670-1. It is only mentioned in the pamphlet.
The pamphlet reads that “Soldiers may wear the ECWCS jackets and trousers as outer garments, to include the layer III fleece jacket, when authorized by the commander.”
The Army also issued guidance on the green Army fleece jacket, stating on its official U.S. Army uniform website that the green Army fleece jacket is authorized for wear with the OCP as an outer garment. Again, if commanders authorize it.
Lastly, the wear of the green or coyote brown Army fleece jacket should not be confused with the ECWCS GEN-II Parka liner which is also fleece and can be zippered onto the parka. It is solely a liner.
Confused? When in doubt, always check with the chain of command. If there is a uniform policy in a unit, senior enlisted leaders likely had a large part in developing it and it should be followed. Maybe your commander will authorize the Army fleece jacket to be worn as an outer garment, then again, maybe they won’t.
Whatever decision a commander makes regarding the Army fleece jacket, it will not stop uninformed or misinformed leaders from taking the opportunity to correct what they see is wrong using their interpretation of the pamphlet. The good thing here is that they are trying to do what is right.
Educate yourself and if the issue means that much to you, carry a copy of the page from Pamphlet 670-1 and educate others without being disrespectful or showing contempt. Today’s leaders are agile and good listeners. If the person being corrective isn’t someone who listens, take note of the person’s name and rank and have your unit leaders give them a call to share your unit’s policy.
One thing is certain, the Army fleece jacket is authorized as an outer garment as long as a commander authorizes it.