Reprinted from The Maple Leaf 24 November 2010
By Lesley Craig and Emeline Thermidor
Descended from a long line of packrats, he’s been collecting Canadian uniforms and equipment since 1976. He owns roughly 300 uniforms, more than 200 helmets, hundreds of badges – the list goes on, says Warrant Officer Ed Storey. His wife keeps him humble in the midst of his collection, informing him that he has one foot solidly in the “dork forest”. He credits her with keeping his other foot out.
His interest is in field-related items that have been issued to Canadian soldiers anytime from 1900 to the present day.
Some of the more unexpected pieces of his collection include underwear, rations, and a Queen Victoria Christmas gift box from 1900, complete with chocolates.
Looking at WO Storey’s collection, the uniforms span a century and tell a story of military history. The brown service dress of the First World War gives way to the green olive drab of the SecondWorld War. A recent addition to his collection, a set of camouflage uniforms and related equipment, records the Canadian involvement with the International Commission of Control and Supervision during the Vietnam War.
“Wartime circumstances do certainly influence changes in uniforms but, for the most part, Canadian designs up to the end of WWII were influenced by British designs,”WO Storey explains. “Following the war, we started developing our own uniforms and, after some new designs in the early 1960s, development was slow until the late 1990s.” The process Today, there are almost 70 projects underway dedicated to improving CF clothing and equipment. Changes being implemented range from lightweight thermal underwear to fragmentation protective vests, from wide-brimmed combat hats to combat socks and boots.
Among the clothing initiatives underway are the Naval Improved Clothing and Equipment, the Clothing and Equipment Millennium Standard and Clothe the Soldier projects.
Significant changes have shaped the landscape of military clothing, brought on by military needs, industry technology advancements and new materials. Some changes arise from new operational requirements. “We’ve gone from being one of the most poorly clothed militaries to one of the best militaries,” says Major Nathalie Guilbeault, acting head of Operational Protective Equipment and Clothing (OPEC). “For Afghanistan, for instance, we’ve gone from CADPAT (Temperate Woodland) to CADPAT (Arid Region). We’ve developed a hydration drinking system and a hybrid shirt which has a moisture-management upper torso.”
Changes also happen when a product needs improving – when wearers complain or when clothing doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. “Capital projects,” says Peter Graham, deputy project manager for the three clothing projects, “were brought on to address the known fact that our clothing was weak in areas.” While the three environments may report similar problems with certain pieces of clothing, they each have unique requirements, but Mr. Graham says, “new technologies have improved efficiency, comfort, and warmth.” The clothing projects also include trade clothing for firefighters, military police, cooks, and drivers.
The CF Dress Committee plays a key role at each step, making sure each new article gets approval from end-users throughout the process. Subject matter experts in all operational areas— footwear, hand wear, textiles, and headwear, to name a few—also contribute to the process. Minor project requirements can be included in the next procurement buy and will take 12 to 18 months to be approved.
However, the implementation of a new piece of clothing or equipment can take 18–55 months.The time depends on the changes needed and the different steps involved in the process. Beyond development, tests, and trials, a new piece that will be used across the CF has to be approved in all three elements. The minimum approval standard is an 80-percent user base acceptance.
Director Soldier Systems Program Management 2, OPEC, will sometimes combine the best design features of the clothing or equipment of other armies and develop a Canadian design. On other occasions, the adaptation of off-the-shelf clothing or equipment is the chosen way to go.
For the Navy, fire resistance is very important; for the Air Force, it’s airworthiness.
And national standards, such as those of the Canadian Safety Board, and international standards—NATO’s, Australia’s and those of the US—can also drive test requirements.
Ultimately, this entire process is designed to provide the best clothing to CF personnel. “The system is a person,” Mr. Graham says.
The end-user Looking at the uniforms in his collection and the uniform he now wears, WO Storey is glad of the progression in technology associated with design and manufacturing changes.
On the one hand, he feels that field uniforms “were a little more stylish decades ago.” On the other hand, today’s are tailored for comfort. Either way, he wholeheartedly approves of the introduction of camouflage.