Metrobus is about to don battle dress.

Starting this spring, a bus painted with military camouflage markings will prowl the streets of the District, in search not of enemy troops but everyday bus commuters--and recruits for the D.C. National Guard.

The Metro board yesterday gave the Guard the go-ahead to paint a standard 40-foot bus from stem to stern.

Against the city's gray backdrop, it is hoped, the green and brown camouflage hues will not hide the bus but rather make it stand out, raising public awareness of the Guard.

The bus will run normal scheduled service, displaying posters urging citizens to enlist or take part in social programs the Guard runs, such as summer camps and charity food distribution.

Capt. Franklin Jackson, a spokesman for the 4,000-member Guard, concedes the color scheme could be controversial. "Either you love it or you hate it," he said.

The Guard will provide the paint and ads, but will pay nothing further to Metro on the grounds the campaign is a public service.

"Our security is all of our business," said Metro board chairman Jerry A. Moore Jr. "The National Guard is charged partially with the responsibility of seeing that the citizens of the metropolitan area are secure from any enemy."

The transit agency's lawyers have ruled that camouflage colors do not violate rules prohibiting the painting of buses with advertising, because they denote no specific group and have no "verbiage."