Regulations for Wear of the Army Combat Uniform

ACU Guide| Regulations


The Army Combat Uniform is governed by Army Regulation 670-1 (AR 670-1). Guidance for how the ACU is worn is provided by the Department of the Army Pamphlet 670-1 (DPAM 670-1). The information provided in this guide will be annotated as either AR 670-1 or DPAM 670-1 to provide you with the direct source of the information provided. Most questions or issues with regards to how, when, where or why to wear the ACU can be resolved by referring back to the original source of the information. In some instances the regulations and rules may require some interpretation for clarification, and State Defense Supply is always glad to assist with helping you understand the rules. Some rules may be modified to meet the requirements of your particular State Defense Force, but starting with the U.S. Army regulations is always the best place to start.

AR 670-1 1–1. Purpose
The Army is a profession. A Soldier’s appearance measures part of their professionalism. Proper wear of the Army uniform is a matter of personal pride for all Soldiers. It is indicative of esprit de corps and morale within a unit. Soldiers have an individual responsibility for ensuring their appearance reflects the highest level of professionalism. Leaders, at all levels, have a responsibility for implementing and applying the standards contained in this regulation to ensure the best interests of the Army, including our shared traditions and customs. This regulation prescribes the authorization for wear, composition, and classification of uniforms, and the occasions for wearing all personal (clothing bag issue), optional, and commonly worn organizational clothing, and individual equipment uniforms. It prescribes the uniforms, awards, insignia, and accoutrements authorized for wear. It also provides general information on the authorized material and design of uniforms and the uniform quality control system.

WHY State Defense Forces wear the uniforms of the U.S. Armed Service

The authorization for service members of State Defense Forces starts with U.S. Code Title 32 Section 109 (c), which establishes the authority for states to form and maintain their own State Defense Forces in addition to their National Guards:

(c) In addition to its National Guard, if any, a State, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, or the Virgin Islands may, as provided by its laws, organize and maintain defense forces.  A defense force established under this section may be used within the jurisdiction concerned, as its chief executive (or commanding general in the case of the District of Columbia) considers necessary, but it may not be called, ordered, or drafted into the armed forces.

U.S. Code Title 10 Chapter 45 Section 771 specifically prohibits anyone but members of the U.S. Armed Forces from wearing the uniforms of the U.S. Armed Forces:

U.S. Code Title 10 Chapter 45 Section 771 - Unauthorized wearing prohibited

Except as otherwise provided by law, no person except a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Space Force, as the case may be, may wear
(1) the uniform, or a distinctive part of the uniform, of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Space Force; or
(2) a uniform any part of which is similar to a distinctive part of the uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Space Force.

U.S. Code Title 10 Chapter 45 Section 772 does make allowances for persons not on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces:

U.S. Code Title 10 Chapter 45 Section 772 - When wearing by persons not on active duty authorized
(j) A person in any of the following categories may wear the uniform prescribed for that category:
(2)Members of any other organization designated by the Secretary of a military department.


AR 670-1 Chapter 23-8 provides clear authorization by the Secretary of the Army for State Defense Forces to "adopt" the uniforms of the U.S. Army, with modification:

AR 670-1 Chapter 23-8 c. State Defense Forces (SDF) may adopt the service uniform and the utility uniform, provided all service uniform buttons, cap devices, and other insignia differ significantly from that prescribed for wear by members of the U.S. Army. SDF should contact the National Guard Bureau for more information.


The responsibility of ensuring that State Defense Force uniforms differ significantly from the U.S. Army uniform is delegated to the adjutants general for each state:

AR 670-1 Chapter 2-7 k. When State Defense Forces (SDF) adopt the Army service uniform and the Army utility uniform, ensure that all service uniform buttons, cap devices, and other insignia differ significantly from that prescribed for wear by members of the U.S. Army. Ensure that State insignia does not include “United States,” “U.S.,” “U.S. Army,” or the Great Seal of the United States. Personnel of the SDF may wear a State-designed SDF distinguishing badge or insignia centered on the left pocket flap. Ensure that the red nametape or nameplate includes the full title of the SDF (for example, “Texas State Guard”). Ensure the utility uniforms contains a State SDF tape in lieu of “U.S. Army” over the left breast pocket. And ensure that States wishing to adopt the Army service and utility uniforms register with the CNGB.

Restrictions on the Wear of U.S. Army Uniforms

The AR 670-1 provides clear direction on when and where soldiers are authorized to wear service and utility uniforms, as well as when and where they are specifically prohibited from wearing the uniforms of the U.S. Army. In general, members of State Defense Forces are only authorized to wear utility uniforms (ACUs and IHWCUs) when under orders and on State Active Duty. Wear of any uniform for personal benefit (ie military discount, self-honor, preferential treatment, complimentary meals) is strictly prohibited. Check with your chain of command for regulations within your jurisdiction regarding prohibitions on wear of the uniforms that extend beyond the regulations contained in the AR 670-1. All SDF members are bound by the AR 670-1 rules.

AR 670-1 3-7 k. Wearing Army uniforms is prohibited in the following situations:
(1) In connection with the furtherance of any political or commercial interests, or when engaged in off duty civilian
(2) When participating in public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies, or public demonstrations, except as authorized by the first O–5 in the chain of command.
(3) When attending any meeting or event that is a function of, or is sponsored by, an extremist organization.
(4) When wearing the uniform would bring discredit upon the Army, as determined by the commander.
(5) When specifically prohibited by Army regulations
AR 670-1 4-3 c. Restrictions on wear.
(1) Personnel may not wear the combat uniform in off-post establishments that primarily sell alcohol for consumption on the premises. If the off-post establishment sells alcohol and food for consumption on the premises, Soldiers may not wear the combat uniform if their activities in the establishment center on the drinking of alcohol.
(2) The combat uniform is not normally considered appropriate for social or official functions off the installation, such as memorial services, funerals, weddings, inaugurals, patriotic ceremonies, and similar functions.
(3) Commanders may further restrict wear of the combat uniform per paragraphs 2–6, 2–7a, and 2–7b.


Wearing the uniforms of the U.S. Armed Forces is a privilege and requires that members of State Defense Forces reflect well on every American who has ever served in uniform, and to maintain the standards for future generations. The uniform is a symbol of American commitment to freedom, justice, resiliency and self-sacrifice in the pursuit of maintaining our way of life. Treat the uniform with the honor and dignity it deserves for what it represents.

Click here for an explanation on the differences between a published Army Regulation (AR) document and a Department of the Army Pamphlet (DA PAM).

Click here for information on the current Operational Camouflage Pattern Scorpion 2 (OCP) and an explanation of the differences between OCP and MultiCam.

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