Desert Camouflage Uniform

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Not to be confused with Desert Battle Dress Uniform.
General Richard B. Myers of the U.S. Air Force wears the Desert Camouflage Uniform during a December 2001 visit to the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).

The Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) is an arid camouflage uniform used by the United States Armed Forces. In terms of pattern and cut, it is nearly identical to the U.S. military's Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) uniform, albeit featuring the three-color desert camouflage pattern of Dark brown, Mint green, and Beige, as opposed to the Pale Olive green, Dark/Light brown, Beige, and Black and White rock spots of the Desert Battle Dress Uniform (DBDU).


The Desert Camouflage Uniform utilized by American soldiers who wore it became known as the Coffee-stain Pattern, Coffee stains or the Three-color Desert Pattern.


First issued in very limited quantity in 1989 as experimental test patterns,[1][2] the DCU and its camouflage scheme, officially known as the Desert Camouflage Pattern, and also known as "coffee stain camouflage", was developed to replace the six-color desert camouflage "chocolate-chip camouflage" uniform, which was deemed unsuitable for most desert combat theaters. As opposed to the original six color DBDU, which was meant for a rockier and elevated desert battlefield that was often not encountered and replaced by the DCU, The DCU was created primarily for a lower, more open, and less rocky desert battlefield space which became a common sight throughout the Persian Gulf War. It was in heavy debate of issuing the DCU in conjunction with the woodland BDU to members in the United States Air Force Auxiliary; given that the C.A.P never; if at all saw deployment to areas that required desert camouflage. The Civil Air Patrol was never issued them as a result. All American personnel in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq wore the DBDU during the entire Gulf War campaign, with the exception of some select U.S. Army generals who were issued the DCU a month following the air campaign in Desert Storm.

By 1992, the first wide scale batches of DCU's were issued first by the United States Army, and within a year to the United States Air Force, and replaced the majority of the DBDU by 1993. With the United States Navy and Marines replacing their older six-colored desert fatiuges from 1993 through 1995.


As a replacement pattern, this meant a new arid region had to be utilized to test the effectiveness of the DCU. Desert soil samples from parts of the Middle East; namely Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait were used as testing locations to find the appropriate color palettes.

U.S. Army[edit]

U.S. Army soldiers in May 2005 wearing the Army Combat Uniform, Desert Camouflage Uniform and a World War II-era uniform (left to right).

Fielded in 1991, the DCU served as the U.S. Army's primary desert combat pattern from 1992 to 2004. In 2005, the DCU and the BDU was discontinued within the U.S. Army, being replaced with the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) by 2008.

U.S. Marine Corps[edit]

Following the Army, the United States Marine Corps began issuing the DCU from 1993 through 1995 and remained the Marine Corps standard arid combat uniform from 1993 to 2002. In January 2002, the U.S. Marine Corps became the first branch to replace both its BDUs and DCUs with the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU), completely replacing them in October 2004.[3]

U.S. Air Force[edit]

Along with the Army, the Air Force began issuing the DCU in 1992 and remained its primary desert uniform until 2011. The U.S. Air Force officially replaced the BDU and DCU on November 1, 2011 with the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU).[4]

U.S. Navy[edit]

With the Marine Corps, the United States Navy first issued its DCUs from 1993 until 2010 when it was replaced by woodland and arid variants of the NWU. The DCU and BDU has been replaced to some extent in the U.S. Navy, supplanted by navy blue, woodland, and arid versions of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU). The U.S. Navy has authorized a replacement uniform of its own for the U.S. Navy SEALs while maintaining it for other NECC ground units.

U.S. Coast Guard[edit]

The DCU was introduced to the Coast Guard sometime in the 1990s. As of the early 2010s, the DCU is still issued to members of the U.S. Coast Guard when deployed to Southwest Asia or arid regions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BowlofRice (August 30, 2013). "3-Color DCU Field jacket with 1989 date...WHAT!? Can someone explain!?". U.S. Militaria Forum. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  2. ^ all-bull (September 28, 2009). "Early Issue Tri-Color DCU?". U.S. Militaria Forum. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  3. ^ Commandant of the United States Marine Corps (September 22, 2004). "MARADMIN 412/04: MANDATORY POSSESSION DATES FOR THE MARINE CORPS COMBAT UTILITY UNIFORMS (MCCUU) AND MARINE CORPS COMBAT BOOTS (MCCB)". United States Marine Corps. United States Department of the Navy. Retrieved September 29, 2004. 
  4. ^ Headquarters, United States Air Force (July 18, 2011). "UTILITY UNIFORMS". AFI 36-2903. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of the Air Force. p. 70. Retrieved September 19, 2013. The mandatory phase in date for the ABU is 1 November 2011.  |chapter= ignored (help)

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