WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Outfitting the Sailor of the future took another step forward last week when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen approved plans for a single working uniform for all ranks and a year-round service uniform for E-6 and below Sailors.
Based on recommendations made during a comprehensive briefing by Task Force Uniform Feb. 24, Mullen agreed to production of both a BDU-style working uniform for all Sailors E-1 to O-10 and a more practical, year-round service uniform to withstand day-to-day classroom and office-like environments where the service uniform is typically worn.
"These are good uniforms, designed to support the modern Sailor," said Mullen. "Durability, safety, ease of wear and cleaning were all factors that weighed heavily on my mind, as did, quite frankly, the survey data and the opinions of wear testers. This wasn't a popularity contest by any stretch, but we would have been foolish not to consider the opinions of the men and women who will wear these uniforms."
The BDU-style working uniform, designed to replace seven different styles of current working uniforms, is made of a near maintenance-free permanent press 50/50 nylon and cotton blend. Worn with a blue cotton t-shirt, it will include an eight-point cover, a black web belt with closed buckle, and black smooth leather boots, with black suede no-shine boots for optional wear while assigned to non-shipboard commands.
"When I walk down the piers, I see a Sailors standing watch as a pier sentry in January and it's 30 degrees and freezing rain," Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/AW) Terry Scott said. "You have to ask yourself, does the uniform that we currently issue protect us, and the answer is no."
To meet the all-weather requirement, the new working uniform will include several cold weather options, such as a unisex pullover sweater, a fleece jacket, and a parka. It will also be made in three variants, all in a multi-color digital print pattern: predominately blue, with some gray, for the majority of Sailors and shipboard use; and a woodland digital pattern and a desert digital pattern for Sailors serving in units requiring those types of uniforms.
"The intent of TFU always has been to give our Sailors a uniform in which they can work comfortably everyday and is more appropriate for the joint environment in which we operate," Scott said. "Even better, we've created a uniform that's also easier to maintain, is longer lasting, helps reduce the size of the sea bag, while at the same time recognizing the tradition and heritage of serving in the Navy."
The service uniform for E-6 and below is comprised of a short-sleeve khaki shirt for males and an over-blouse for females, made from a wash and wear 75/25 polyester and wool blend, with permanent military creases, black trousers for males with belt less slacks for females and optional belt less skirt, and a black unisex garrison cap. Silver anodized-metal rank insignia will be worn on shirt/blouse collars and cap. The service uniform will also include a black relaxed-fit Eisenhower-style jacket with a knit stand-up collar and epaulets, on which petty officers will wear large, silver anodized-metal rank insignia. Those entitled to wear gold chevrons will continue to wear gold chevrons on the large metal rank insignia on the jacket.
"In our research, we found the group most dissatisfied with their present uniforms were E-6 and below," Scott said.
The manner of wear for both of these new uniforms remains under development by TFU and will not be effective until guidelines on prescribed wear are incorporated in the Navy Uniform Regulations.
"There are a lot of concerns about the manner of wear for the working and service uniforms that we need to address, so we have a smooth transition when the time comes," TFU Director CNO-Directed Command Master Chief Robert Carroll said.
The working uniform and service uniform are not expected to be available for purchase and wear until late fall of 2007, after which they will be introduced to Recruit Training Command and eventually distributed to the rest of the fleet. Details on when the uniforms will be available for purchase and wear at specific geographic locations will be released at a future date.
Until the new uniforms are available for wear, all existing uniform regulations will apply. During the expected two-year transition period, Sailors will be required to maintain a complete inventory of sea bag items with each reflecting a professional appearance.
"We want our Sailors to keep a professional appearance," Carroll said. "We don't want people wearing worn-out uniforms because they're waiting for the new ones to hit the shelves."
Once the working and service uniforms are adopted, Sailors will receive a uniform maintenance allowance appropriate to support purchase and wear.
The announcement of the new uniforms, Carroll said, is the culmination of a three-year project that began with the charter of Task Force Uniform to deliver a proposal to reflect the requirements of a 21st century Navy. An analysis of a fleet-wide survey conducted during the summer of 2003 led to the creation of concepts for working and service uniforms for a wear test and another fleet-wide survey last summer.
"I just can't say enough about how meticulous and thorough TFU Director Master Chief Rob Carroll and his team approached their work," stressed Mullen. "The process they established and maintained was rock solid -- measured and analytical. They looked at hundreds of options, studied countless pattern and color designs, and fretted over every minor detail, from button style to stitching. I am enormously proud of their effort, and every Sailor can be, too."
The work of TFU will not stop. Next on the agenda is to evaluate additional uniform options, such as reviving the traditional Service Dress Khaki uniform for chiefs and officers, conducting research on the feasibility, cost and distribution of a service-wide physical training uniform, consider adoption of a ceremonial cutlass for chiefs, and investigate adopting a more practical service-wide, all-weather coat that would provide a better military appearance.
"The bottom line for me in making these decisions," said the CNO, "is culture. Uniforms reflect our culture -- who we are -- what we stand for. I've said all along that no matter which way we go, I want Sailors to look like Sailors. I really believe these uniforms pass that test."
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