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Corps seeks Marines' feedback on major uniform changes

Aug. 8, 2014 - 03:27PM   |  
The Marine Corps Uniform Board released a survey seeking input about three proposed uniform changes from active-duty and reserve Marines Aug. 8.
The Marine Corps Uniform Board released a survey seeking input about three proposed uniform changes from active-duty and reserve Marines Aug. 8. (Marine Corps)
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Marine officials are proposing three major uniform changes in a survey published online Friday.

Included in the survey is the proposal to:

■ Switch enlisted rank insignias from black to brushed brass.

■ Change the transition to desert utilities with sleeves up back by nearly a month to April 1.

■ Make the “Sam Browne” belt a mandatory accessory for officers in dress blue “alphas” and “bravos.”

The rank insignia color switch may be the most welcome proposal among junior Marines.

“When black insignia intersects with black pixels in the woodland MARPAT utilities it can be difficult to discern rank,” reads a Marine news release announcing the survey.

While it can create confusion for Marines of any rank, it can put junior Marines in a particularly uncomfortable situation when they have trouble discerning between a gunny and a master sergeant, or a first sergeant and a sergeant major. Marines were quick to chime in on the Marine Corps’ official Facebook page.

“Gold chevrons would make the lives of lance corporals everywhere so much easier... However, it would also no longer allow us to make fun of [second lieutenants],” wrote Joshua Brooks.

Others, however, feel that MARPAT is a tactical uniform, and brushed brass stands out too much.

Also, notable is the proposal to push the annual springtime transition to desert utilities and rolled sleeves back by nearly a month. Currently, Marines switch to desert utilities with daylight savings in early March. Pushing that to April 1, would give the weather nearly an entire extra month to warm up first.

While the move by the uniform board in 2011 to go sleeves down all year was wildly unpopular among most Marines who considered it an affront to tradition and the loss of a standard that set them apart from soldiers, some reservists stationed in the northern states saw the change as relief from early spring cold. Occasionally, snow flurries were still falling when they went sleeves up.

With the return to rolled sleeves following a reversal of the policy in February by Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, temperature in early spring again becomes a concern for some Marines.

The proposal to shift the transition to desert utilities “was a frequent topic of discussion during uniform briefs at East Coast E-8 symposiums and [staff noncommissioned officer Academy classes,” according to the Marine news release.

Unlike the first two proposed changes, making the Sam Browne belt required for officers wearing dress blue alphas and bravos is purely aesthetic and meant to emphasize the service’s history. In in the Marine Corps, it harkens back to the 1920s, when officers still routinely wore swords as their personal weapon.

“The Sam Browne belt has been in the U.S. military uniform inventory since WWI,” said Mary Boyt, the program manager for the Permanent Marine Corps Uniform Board, in the release. “The belt is currently prescribed for optional wear by Marine Corps officers only.”

All three changes are simply proposed at this juncture. While the survey will be considered by the Uniform Board and included in its final decision memorandum to the commandant, who has ultimate approval authority, survey results have been countermanded in the past. Most notably the sleeves down decision was made through a 15-to-2 vote by the board and approved by the commandant, despite a survey in which 61 percent of Marines opposed the change.

The survey will remain open to all active-duty and Reserve Marines through Aug. 29, and can be accessed at www.manpower.usmc.mil/application. There, Marines should select the survey for Marine Corps Uniform Board No. 214.

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