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Condensed Overview of NVA Uniforms – What to Wear and When and Waffenfarben

By Joe Rivers – a.k.a. Major Kulow


As a collector of DDR/NVA uniforms, I have found that "what to wear" and "when to wear it" are one the more confusing aspects of NVA Uniform collecting and re-enacting. To help sort out the confusion, I have come up with the following condensed version of the NVA's 1986 clothing regulations – "DV 010/0/005-Uniform Types & their Method of Wear".


            My intent is to provide an overview of the composition of the Male version of the Feld- (Field), Dienst- (Service), Ausgangs- (Walking Out), Parade-Uniformen, and the GroBer und Kleiner Gesellschaftsuniformen (Greater and Lesser Social Uniforms) for the Ground Forces (except Paratroops), Air Force, and Grenztruppen,.


  • Field Service (Battle Dress) Uniform in the Rain Pattern - Worn by all ranks for field training and exercises

  • Service Uniform – Worn by all ranks for daily duty in garrison.

    • Basic Group Uniform was an all purpose and was of the more courser Streichgarn (the so-called "Wooly" material commonly called "Enlisted Cloth"). The collar could be worn closed as a Service Uniform or open for Walking Out or Parades. When required, trousers were tucked into the Combat Boots (Halbschaftstiefel – Half Boot) toward the front on the outside of the leg.

    • Career Group Uniform material was called "Kammgarn (What most collectors call "Gabardine" – it has a smooth finish and a distinct texture. All career soldiers wore this uniform, including privates joining in a career status to become career NCOs. Also Short Termers in "Watch" regiments wore this uniform for official occasions and parades

  • Staff Service Uniform – Worn for office work by career personnel only

  • Walking Out Uniform – Worn by all ranks for passes off base and leave, and by Basic group for social occasions.

  • Parade uniform – Worn by all ranks for parades and honor guards, for military ceremonies, and on state holidays and NVA Day.

  • Social Uniform – In both Formal and Semi-Formal versions, worn by officers for social occasions


The Volksmarine will be covered separately at a later date. Because of the complexity of General Officer uniforms, they will not be covered, but I do have information on them if you have questions.


            More than any other criteria, the "Conditions of Service" of an individual defined the composition of the uniform worn. There were, for practical purposed, two individual groupings. I'll call one "Basic" and the other "Career"


Basic Group Consists of:

  1. Draftees (Soldaten im Grundwehrdienst) – Conscripts serving their military obligation of 18 months.

  2. Short Service Privates (Soldaten auf Zeit) – Individuals serving past the 18 month obligation up to 3 years.

  3. NCO Candidates (Unteroffizierschuler)

  4. Short Service NCOs (Unteroffiziere auf Zeit) – Serving from 3 to 10 years.

  5. Reservists on Active Duty (Soldaten im Reservistenwehrdienst) – for periods up to 3 months.


Career Group consists of:

  1. Career Status NCOs (Berufsunteroffiziere)

  2. Warrant Officers (Fahnriche)

  3. Officers (Offiziers)

  4. Candidates for Career Status NCOs (Berufsunteroffiziereschuler)

  5. Warrant Officer and Officer Candidates (Fahnrichschuler und Offizierschuler)

  6. Additionally, Short Service Officers (Offizier auf Zeit) wore the uniform of this group.


There was a minimum service obligation associated with the "Career Soldier":

  1. 10 years for an NCO

  2. 15 years for a Warrant Officer

  3. 25 years for an officer


            These individuals could serve until they reached the retirement age of 65. "Short Service" officers served at the pleasure of the Ministry, and they could not be promoted above the rank of Hauptmann. During the time the 1986 regulations were in force, the terms "Unteroffizierschuler" and " Berufsunteroffiziereschuler" were changed to "Gefreiter in der Ausbildung zum Unteroffizier auf Zeit" (Senior Private in Training as a Short Term NCO) and "Gefreiter in der Ausbildung zum Berufsunteroffiziere" (Senior Private in Training as Career NCO) Respectively.


The regulation provided for two uniform "Seasons" and two "Transition (Ubergang) Periods, with a variety of combinations specified for different uniforms in different seasons


  1. Winter – 1 December  through 28/29 February

  2. Transition  – 1 March through 15 April

  3. Summer (Sommer) – 16 April through 31 October

  4. Transition  – 1 through 30 November


These regulations were very complex and controlled all aspects of uniform wear. Rather than designating the basic components of wear and listing accessories, each possible variation of wear was given a separate numerical designation which, when coupled with the season, defined the specific uniform to be worn. There were for example, 5 forms of the "Service Dress" were prescribed for "Career" personnel – Number 3 Transition and number 5 winter are the same except that the Winter Cap is substituted for the Visor Cap in the latter.


Wearing of Awards

Basic soldiers were not allowed to wear awards on the Service Uniform; they were mandatory on the Parade and Walking Out Uniform as they were for all 3 forms of dress for careerists. On the Service and Walking Out Uniforms, metal ribbons (Interimspangen) were worn, while the Parade uniform demanded wear of full medals (Medaille am Band – "Gong on the Ribbon") for state awards. Non state awards, as well as badges, were also worn. On occasions when officers wore the Formal Uniforms, personnel below officer rank wore the Walking Out dress with full medals. Wear of awards on the Oberhemd was not permitted. On careerists' Hemdbluse, up to the 4-highest awards could be worn as  Interimspangen, while officers could wear their Academy badge above the right breast pocket. No other insignia were permitted on the Hemdbluse. NCOs wore silver Treese around their collar. Company First Sergents (Hauptfeldwebeln), the ranking NCO in every company or company sized unit wore a ring of 15mm Tresse around each sleeve cuff. Warrant officer patches were worn centered on the left sleeve, between 12 and 14 cm below the shoulder.


Waffenfarben used by the NVA (since 1986)


  • General Officers, Ground forces - Scarlet

  • Motorized Infantry, Reconnaissance - White

  • Rocket troops, Artillery, Rocket and weapon technical service, Army air defense, Mechanization and automation of command and control - Red

  • Panzers - Pink

  • Engineers, Chemical service, Motor vehicle service, Military transport service - Black

  • Signals - Yellow

  • Paratroopers - Orange

  • Supply, Legal service, Financial service - Dark green

  • Construction soldiers - Olive

  • All others - White

  • Border Troops - Green

  • General Officers, air/air defense forces, Air forces, Army flying forces, Navy flying forces - Light blue

  • Air defense forces - Light grey

  • Admirals, People's Navy - Dark blue

Waffenfarben were also worn by the troops of the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Internal Affairs with several branches of the police, fire brigades, etc.

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