S&S - Army combines whites, greens, ends up with blues. Revisions leave soldiers with single dress uniform.
Stars and Stripes
Army combines whites, greens, ends up with blues
Revisions leave soldiers with single dress uniform
By Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Courtesy of U.S. Army
The new “Army Service Uniform” is virtually identical to the current “dress blue” uniform, but will be the sole uniform for dress wear.
ARLINGTON, Va. — Army leaders have decided to consolidate the service’s Blue and White Dress uniform and Green Class A uniform into a single, all-purpose “Army Service Uniform.”
The new uniform, mandatory by the end of 2011, will do double duty, according to Lt. Col. Carl Ey, an Army spokesman.
First, the uniform, which is virtually identical to the current “dress blue” uniform, will be the Army’s sole standard for dress wear, replacing the dress whites that soldiers are authorized to wear in tropical climates.
In over two decades of military service, both active and reserve component, I must confess that the only time I've ever seen the Army White uniform worn was during the televising of graduation at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. I've seen just about all the other dress and service uniforms, including White Mess.
It will also replace the Army “greens” or “Class ‘A’s,” which soldiers wear in situations where civilians would wear a business suit.
“We’re not getting a new dress uniform; we’re getting a new uniform for daily activity, too,” Ey said Tuesday. “After 2011, you’ll never see the greens again.”
Last year, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker tasked Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston and other leaders to look into the possibility of eliminating one or more of the uniforms soldiers wear when they are not dressed for the field.
This won't effect the (optional) mess dress uniforms worn for that truly dressy effect, and will at least, finally, allow Army soldiers to get out of the ghetto (have you ever seen the Army Green Dress uniform?) and be on an equal footing, insofar as having an issue dress uniform, with our sister services.
One major concern was reducing cost to soldiers — “the tremendous amount of money it takes for a soldier to sew things on uniforms, launder uniforms, press them and all this stuff.”
Schoomaker’s resulting decision was to cut two uniforms completely, while making minimal changes to the uniform he decided to keep.
The jacket and pants are the same: a very dark, almost black-blue top over a lighter blue bottom (the women’s skirt matches the jacket in both the current and the new uniform).
U.S. Army soldiers first began to wear blue in their dress uniforms in the Continental Army of 1779.
The U.S. Army tradition of wearing two different shades of blue in the jacket and pants, meanwhile, comes from the days of the Army cavalry, Ey said.
“When soldiers would break to make camp, they would take off their jackets so they wouldn’t get them dirty” as the troops went about the work of setting up their canvas tents, building fires, and taking care of their mounts, he said. “Because the pants got worn more than the tops, the pants would fade in the sunlight.”
But there are some differences between the old dress blue uniform and the new service uniform:
o The service blue uniform has two shirts: a white shirt for formal occasions, and a grey herringbone shirt for day-to-day work. Both come in versions tailored for women.
Not sure exactly what the "herringbone" shirt is going to look like, but I'm encouraged by the choice of grey for the "day-to-day work" (i.e., Service) uniform.
o All soldiers in the rank of corporal and above will have a vertical gold braid sewn on the outside seam of each trouser leg. Currently, only officers wear the braid.
This last seems like a very good decision on somebody's part. They've dodge the bullet, suggested in an earlier article, about making a separate "senior enlisted version." The article isn't quite correct, however, about the "only officers wear the braid" part.
To explain, in the current Army Green Service and Army Green Dress uniforms (i.e., "Class A's" and "Class B's"), only the commissioned and warrant officers wear a braid on the outer seam of each trouser leg. And that braid is black. A black braid is also worn on the officer's Army Green jacket sleeve. On the Army Blue uniform, soldiers of all ranks wear a gold braid on the uniform trousers, although there's some technicalities about what material the gold braid can be made of, depending on whether one is enlisted or an officer.
o Patches of any kind, such as unit patches, will no longer be worn on the jacket.
This was probably a good call, although a case can be made either way. Color patches would just add a little too much to this uniform, which has plenty of flair as it is. Patches representing qualifications such as Ranger, Special Forces or Sapper taps are worn as a metal/enamel pin on this uniform already.
Correct me if I'm wrong, however, but unless I'm mistaken, this means that there will no longer be any Army uniforms on which a full-color unit patch will be worn.
o Women will be issued optional slacks, as well as a skirt. Currently, women can wear optional slacks with the Class A greens but not with the dress blues.
I've seen women wear the Army Blue trousers before, but they've always been members of ceremonial units such as color or honor guards. There was one at my wedding, for instance, in the detail which provide the Arch of Swords.
The changes are designed so soldiers who already own the dress blue uniform can modify it and purchase the additional accessories, Ey said.
It would seem this means that if you already own the Army Blue uniform, if you're a man you'll just have to buy some grey herringbone shirts and if you're a women you'll have to buy some grey herringbone blouses and a pair of trousers.
The new service blue uniform is scheduled to be in Clothing Sales stores by the end of 2007, Ey said.
Prices have not yet been determined, in part because the Army hasn’t hired a contractor to begin making the uniforms, he said.
Enlisted soldiers will get an initial issue of the service uniform instead of the Class A greens beginning in the first quarter of 2009, Ey said.
Just a couple of questions still hanging-fire to my mind.
First, will the Army Blue service cap remain the headgear for the Army Blue, er, Army Service Uniform? May we hope for a diminishment of the wear of the current black beret as part of the service uniform? And in a related area, may female soldiers hope that the truly abominable version of the Army Blue service cap could be replaced by one similar to that worn by male soldiers?
Just an aside, the uniform worn by female member so of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets used to include a uniform cap based upon, and just as ugly as, that now part of the female soldier's Army Blue uniform. Sometime in the early 1980's, this was replaced and cadets of both genders now wear a service cap much like the male Army Blue service cap. So it can be done, without bringing on the Apocalypse.
Second, will commissioned and warrant officers continue to wear the "shoulder-strap" rank insignia currently part of the Army Blue uniform?
There are some quibbles I'd make about some other types of insignia. Currently, only in special instances, such as how worn by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment ("The Old Guard"), does one wear the DUI (Distinctive Unit Insignia, commonly referred to as "unit crests") on the enlisted uniform epaulettes of the Army Blue uniform. This could be possibly be changed, disallowing wear of the unit crests only when worn in the full-dress (formal or Black Tie equivalent) version.