WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Five years after canvassing the fleet for suggestions on new and more practical uniforms for the 21st century, the Navy has started rolling out a year-round service uniform for Sailors E-6 and below and a Battle Dress Uniform, or BDU-style, working uniform for all ranks.
In addition, the Navy's first physical fitness (PT) uniform - a gold short-sleeved shirt and blue shorts, with "NAVY" in reflective lettering on both - is now available. Reserve enlisted Sailors will be issued the PT uniforms by their operational support centers.
In 2003, then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark established Task Force Uniform (TFU), charging it with developing and giving Sailors a modern, cost-effective set of uniforms that have a professional appearance, recognize naval heritage, and offer easier storage, maintenance and comfort. TFU conducted two Navy-wide surveys and hundreds of interviews with Sailors, as well as command site visits and seven-month wear tests. More than 60,000 Sailors offered feedback, and their message came through loud and clear: 'we have too many uniforms, and they're too difficult to maintain.'
The Navy responded, and commands are preparing to adopt the new uniforms in waves according to region. Reserve Sailors can expect to wear them later this year or early next year. The new Navy working uniform (NWU) replaces the utilities, wash khaki, coveralls, woodland green, aviation green, winter working blues and summer whites.
With a digital print pattern incorporating Navy blue, deck gray, haze gray and black, the NWU is a wash-and-wear 50/50 nylon and cotton blend. The majority of Sailors surveyed preferred a BDU-style uniform, one that doesn't show spots, stains or heavy wear like a solid color uniform and allows mending of small tears in fabric, saving money in replacement costs.
Worn with a blue cotton T-shirt, the new Navy working uniform comes with 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. Cold-weather options include a unisex pullover sweater, a fleece jacket, and a Gore-Tex parka.
"Besides reducing the seabag and providing ease of maintenance, a camouflage-style uniform puts us more in line with our sister services in terms of our appearance," said Master Chief Arthur Rivers, assistant head for the Navy's Uniform Matters Office.
In the future, Sailors operating in tactical environments, including expeditionary Sailors and SEALs, will wear either woodland or desert digital patterns.
The year-round service uniform for E-6 and below includes 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 beltless slacks for females and optional beltless skirt, and a black unisex garrison cap. Silver anodized-metal rank insignia will be worn on shirt and blouse collars and cap, replacing the rating badge with a collar device that can be taken on and off a uniform and easily updated upon promotion. The service uniform's non-vertical match - tops and bottoms are different colors - is in line with equivalent uniforms of the other service branches.
"Sailors are pretty satisfied," Rivers said. "In conversations I've had with those who have seen and worn the new service uniform, a good number of them have said they're quite pleased."
The service uniform also includes, for optional wear, 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 their rank insignia on the jacket.
The new PT uniform is designed for command PT activities and the semi-annual physical fitness tests. The gold shirt is moisture wicking and odor-resistant polyester with reflective lettering on back and front. The Navy blue shorts are also nylon moisture wicking and odor resistant, and come in six- and eight-inch lengths. They also have reflective Navy lettering, with side pockets and a hidden identificationcard pocket inside the waistband.
"The PT uniform is a huge success, in my opinion," Rivers said. "Looking out across the field and seeing the blue and gold, you'll know those people are Sailors."
The total projected cost of Task Force Uniform is $433 million over a two-year outfitting period, spread over fiscal years 2008 and 2009. An increase in clothing replacement allowance rates coincides with the introduction of the new uniforms, so Sailors will be able to purchase them when they are introduced to the fleet.
Due to contracting, production and manufacturing challenges, introduction and distribution of the new uniforms will happen by region over a designated period of time rather than by simultaneous multiple-site deliveries. The service and working uniforms will be available through Navy Exchange Uniform Centers and temporary off-site locations until all regions are fully outfitted. The outfitting of accession commands will happen separately and independent of the regional rollouts.
Phased fleet availability of the service uniform starts this summer and at Recruit Training Command (RTC) this fall. Phased fleet availability of the new Navy working uniform starts this winter and at RTC in early 2009.
Even as the Navy introduces these changes, others are still on the drawing board. Last fall, selected officers and Sailors began limited wear testing of new service dress khaki for chiefs and officers and the new service dress blue and white jumpers for E-6 and below.
The service dress khaki uniform is in a traditional style, last worn during the Vietnam War era, while the E-6 and below service uniforms have hidden zippers and new piping for service dress white. The service dress blue will be for men only.
A Navy wind suit also is being considered to complement the new PT uniforms.
"The Navy will continue to look at and evaluate uniform components," Rivers said. "I've been in this office two months and realized we never really stop, because we're constantly getting feedback and recommendations from Sailors in the fleet who have some great ideas to improve uniforms, uniform components or uniform regulations. It's something that's always going on."
To learn more about the Navy's new uniforms, visit www.npc.navy.mil/commandsupport/usnavyuniforms.
For more news from Navy Region Mid Atlantic, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrma/.