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Civilians Snap Up Uniforms

January 25, 1991|ROSE-MARIE TURK

Shortly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August, Army-Navy surplus stores nationwide reported increased sales of official desert camouflage uniforms to civilians.

Now that Operation Desert Shield has become Desert Storm, additional items, including a green nighttime parka and sand-colored boots, are attracting national attention.

The parka--with a grid pattern and green color scheme designed to foil enemy radar--has been featured in press reports and on news talk shows. At Supply Sergeant, a surplus store in Santa Monica, manager Paul Edwards says there was little demand in the past for the $70 nylon-cotton garment. But now that troops are wearing the parka, customers want it, and Edwards says his firm is looking for a fresh supply.

Harvey Keene, chief of public affairs for Natick, the U.S. Army's research and development center, doubts surplus stores will be able to oblige shoppers. He expects that all parkas in production will be sent to Operation Desert Storm.

Troops will receive a 100% cotton uniform. It is being manufactured in response to complaints that the nylon-cotton fabric being used is too hot.

New suede and nylon boots represent one of the most welcome changes yet. Troops were originally issued Vietnam-era footwear with metal plates in the soles that tended to heat up, an Army source said. Supply Sergeant's Edwards says the problem was so severe that customers were buying $39.95 Israeli-made desert boots to send to relatives stationed in the Persian Gulf.

The cost of the basic Gulf War attire is $164.75, according to the U.S. Army Materiel Command. Included are brown undershirts and matching boxer shorts, (women add bras and panties) a bush-style hat, olive drab wool-cotton-nylon socks, a beige cotton neckerchief, the parka and its button-in lining.

A Pentagon spokeswoman notes that additional necessities available to troops include lip balm and suntan lotion. And a spokeswoman for Gargoyles Performance Eyewear, a Kent, Wash., firm, says the company is supplying "eye armor"--wraparound sunglasses with special lenses that can deflect a .177-caliber pellet traveling 290 m.p.h.

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