It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. I’m not sure who said this, but he was probably involved in naval uniform development. The modern Navy has over a dozen uniforms currently in use with numerous modifications in the works.
All these new uniforms and modifications started with Task Force Uniform (TFU), the first task force created by the U.S. Navy for the war on terror. You might think it’s odd that in the middle of the largest military operation since the Vietnam War the Navy created a task force to design uniforms. Well nobody asked you, and it’s a good thing too. Don’t you know that the most important aspect to any tactical operation is a well-dressed navy? This is not to say that the US Navy is better dressed as a result of TFU.
For years the Navy has struggled to develop durable uniforms with a traditional look that also serve a practical purpose. The result has been uniforms lacking a traditional look and at the same time serve no practical purpose, and durable enough to survive up to two washings before falling apart.
The best example was the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type I. Not only was this a blue camouflage uniform providing camouflage only after falling into the ocean (literally the only time a shipboard sailor wants to be easily found) but also was likely to melt to your body if the ambient temperature was higher than the average cup of coffee.
The NWU Type I was a failure. Fortunately the Navy learned from it and issued the NWU Type III (the story of the Type II design is so ridiculous you wouldn’t believe it if I told you). The Type IIIs are a real camouflage uniform, designed for the rigors of combat (as can be seen by the addition of Velcro). The green woodland design is ideal for concealment in any forest (although I will admit there are very few of these on most warships).
This is a uniform so camouflaged that even your rank was hidden. The rank insignia is worn inside the back pocket. I’m just kidding, it’s worn in the center of the blouse (right behind any package you might be carrying). This has resulted in comical situations as sailors, passing on the street, study each other carefully (with sideways glances) to figure out if a salute is required. It’s the Navy version of Where’s Waldo?
Now that I’m retired from the Navy, and would like to continue to eat, I’ve been wondering if the Navy’s uniform office is hiring. Given the products recently introduced, there can’t be a very high bar to clear. I’ve even started working on a couple new ideas, which we will now explore.
Working uniforms have been a huge challenge. A uniform which is practical and sharp is ideal but merging both of these can be difficult. Above all it has to provide for the safety of the wearer. No more working uniforms that melt, from now on they will be made of leather (as we all know leather never goes out of style).
The new naval working uniform (NNWU) will also be camouflage, because in the modern Navy, for some reason, it is essential that we be camouflaged at all times. The pattern will have to change though. Digital camouflage is so 2005. Now in the 20’s we need something new and edgy. The new working uniform will utilize 3D patterns. We could then sell 3D glasses to the enemy at a reasonable price.
If there is one group of sailors that have been left out of all the uniform developments, it’s the trouble makers. With this uniform that is a thing of the past. I present to you the Penitential Uniform (PU). The PU would be made of blue burlap to provide a perpetual reminder to the wearer of their offence. The PU would be issued following captain’s mast or court martial and worn for the duration of restricted duty or brig confinement. Instead of ribbons or warfare devices the right breast pocket would be decorated with symbols of the offences.
Physical Training Uniforms
Physical training uniforms have been a difficult area since they were first introduced in 2006. Durability, comfort, freedom of movement, and material that breathes are all areas that should be included in such a uniform. We know this because these are the areas that were not included when developing the current uniform. Which brings us to the new, improved, and highly modern PT Uniform version X (PTU-X). The PTU-X will be made completely out of body paint. Talk about freedom of movement and breathability. What is more durable than the human skin? Any wear or damage and the skin will heal and then can be touched up with official PTU-X touch up paint carried in the official PTU-X fanny pack adorned with a digital blue and gold pattern.
This is, of course, just the beginning. I have a lot more ideas but I’m not giving those away for free. I’ll save those for when the uniform office hires me (or until I need another idea for an article).
The challenges of the future are coming and we need new uniforms to meet those challenges. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no such thing as a bad idea when it comes to uniforms. The Navy will buy anything.
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