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Testing moves forward for uniform items

Apr. 12, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Lt. Heidi Boettger and Chief Yeoman Brianne Dentson model prototypes for the female combination cover. Wear tests of the cover begin this month.
Lt. Heidi Boettger and Chief Yeoman Brianne Dentson model prototypes for the female combination cover. Wear tests of the cover begin this month. (MC1 Elliott Fabrizio/Navy)
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For coveralls, boondockers, women’s uniforms and even the Uniform Board, updates are in the works.

The next change was slated for April 8 and 9, when officials will fit and issue the new female combination cover to three female lieutenants and an admiral at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. — and approximately 15 midshipmen and 10 Navy band members at the Naval Academy — as part of a wear test.

Testing includes female sailors donning “Dixie cup” covers this summer. They will also try out service dress blue jumpers with a side zipper on the blouse, and zippered trousers will soon be tested by sailors in Norfolk, Va. The plan is to roll out the SDBs in tandem with the men’s uniform by 2015.

The changes were driven by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who wants more uniformity in the ranks.

Not all changes are about looks. Flame-resistant coveralls are being issued throughout the fleet. Crew members aboard the amphibious assault ship Bataan received the first batch in January.

Every fleet sailor will receive three pairs, with deploying commands getting first dibs; the fielding should be complete by year’s end. The coveralls are to be worn underway in place of the poly-cotton utility coveralls and the blue-and-gray Navy working uniform — both of those uniforms are made of fabric that’s susceptible to burning and melting until completely consumed in a fire.

The utility coveralls are still being issued at boot camp, but it is “a reasonable assumption” that they will be phased out and replaced by the flame-resistant coverall, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens told Navy Times in March.

Lighter on your feet?

Steel-toe boots soon may be a thing of the past. Navy experts are testing new materials in hopes of replacing the steel toe cap with a lightweight but durable resin that would lighten your boondockers. Boots with the new toe caps could be up to 20 percent lighter.

About 400 fleet sailors will test prototype toe caps over the next six months. The protective steel toe is not only too heavy to be comfortable, but it also is liable to transmitting heat or cold to readily to your toes.

Sailors aboard the attack submarine Jimmy Carter were the first to be outfitted. They are in the shipyard, but will be underway long before the six-month evaluation is complete, which provides evaluators the best of both worlds. Sailors in 7th and 3rd Fleets also will participate.

Big changes also are expected behind the scenes. In February, Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel, said he was looking for ways to dismantle the Uniform Board and create a smaller, streamlined group that can get uniforms to the fleet faster. As it stands, some uniforms can take forever to reach sailors: It’ll take the better part of a decade for sailors to get their redesigned crackerjacks, for example.

As part of the first steps, Navy Exchange Service Command and Naval Supply Systems Command established a Navy Uniform Product Group within NEXCOM. It is unclear how this will fit within the larger vision for a nimbler uniform development process. Moran has said he thinks a much smaller board can do the job.

“What we want is good input, good ideas, and [to] be able to attack those ideas in a responsive way,” Moran said in a Feb. 18 interview. “The [chief of naval operations], myself and the [master chief petty officer of the Navy] — we think we can get that information without having to rely on a large board that meets on a routine basis.”

Personnel officials are developing more detailed plans for the streamlined structure.■

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