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The Navy Working Uniform — the sea service's blue-and-gray camouflage ensemble — will begin appearing in Navy Exchanges in January.
The NWU replaces several existing uniforms, and it'll happen while other uniform changes are hitting the fleet.
It can get a little confusing, so Navy Times has compiled likely questions from sailors as the NWU begins its two-year march onto ships, airplanes, subs and bases. Staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org">Mark D. Faram also will answer additional questions and post them below.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Which uniforms does the Navy Working Uniform replace?
A: The NWU will replace utilities worn by E-6 and below and wash khakis worn by chiefs and officers. In addition, it will replace the little-used tropical versions of those uniforms.
It also replaces the "winter working blue" uniform, the less-dressy version of the "Johnny Cash" black shirt and black pants worn without ribbons and tie.
Coveralls were also headed for the scrap heap until the Navy reconsidered. A 2004 survey showed that coveralls are the most popular working uniform among sailors, so those will stay.
Q: When will the NWU be required for wear?
A: All sailors and officers will be required to have the NWU in their seabags by January 2011.
Q: If coveralls are still allowed, when do I wear those as opposed to the NWU?
A: The Navy is still finalizing the occasion-for-wear policy for the NWU, which could affect the policy for wearing coveralls. Most likely, you can expect to wear your coveralls the same way you do today and on the same occasions — and with the same restrictions.
Q: In what circumstances will I wear the NWU?
A: Again, it's still up in the air. But, at a minimum, the blue cammies will be the Navy's working uniform for E-1 through O-10 and required in any situation that previously required dungarees for E-6 and below or wash khakis for chiefs and officers.
Q: When will I not be allowed to wear the NWU?
A: The Navy is still working on that policy. Sources say that the current sticking points involve how much leeway to give sailors who are traveling to and from work. For example, the Marine Corps allows Marines to drive to work wearing their cammies, but they can't get out of the car unless it's an emergency.
Current rules allow sailors to wear their utilities to and from work and to stop for gas. Those in khakis can stop at the store on the way home.
Q: What about sailors who work on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, are assigned to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, work on a flight deck or at any other unit that requires woodland or desert cammies?
A: Sailors involved in tactical situations or special work environments — the war zones, flight decks, expeditionary units, etc. — will wear what they always wear.
However, sources say some sailors, such as masters-at-arms guarding gates and patrolling installations, will have to wear the NWU. The Navy has not published a list of such situations. The Navy is not yet commenting on who in Navy Expeditionary Combat Command will wear the NWU when they are not deployed.
Q: Will my clothing allowance cover the cost of the entire uniform?
A: Yes. Navy officials are increasing enlisted uniform allowances over two years to cover the initial purchase of the uniforms. Half was paid in fiscal 2008, and half is coming this fiscal year. Starting in 2010, the uniform allowance will again be adjusted to cover the cost of maintaining and periodically replacing NWU items — though officials estimate sailors will have to replace each NWU uniform every 18 months, compared with every six months for the current utility uniform. Sailors entering the Navy starting in April will be issued the new uniforms in boot camp.
Q: Can I buy the NWU online?
A: Yes, you will be able to order them from the Navy Exchange Uniform Support Center starting in October 2009. Go to https:// www.nexnet.nexweb.org/pls/nexauth/nexauth.wg_shop_online.
Q: If my region has not begun selling the NWU in exchanges, can I buy one at another region's exchange and wear it at my command?
A: Though it's not encouraged, this is also not forbidden. This also goes for sailors who are stationed in one region, buy their uniform there and transfer to a region that is not yet selling the NWU. Once the rollout has started, sailors are authorized to wear either the NWU and the existing utilities until January 2011. However, sailors who were not issued NWUs at boot camp or who purchased them while not assigned to a rollout location must maintain their current working uniforms until the NWU is available where they are assigned.
Q: Should I buy my uniform right away to avoid shortages?
A: By rolling the uniforms out by region, uniform officials expect to have enough uniforms on hand to avoid shortages.
Q: How do I know I'm not buying a knockoff uniform?
A: Buy your uniform at the exchange. If you get it somewhere else, you run the risk of buying a cheap imitation. The Navy has trademarked the NWU design to protect it from unauthorized manufacturing.
Q: What do I do with my old uniform?
A: You can do whatever you want with your old uniform, as long as it does not discredit the Navy.
Q: Can I wear any black combat boot with my NWU?
A: No. Only two types of boots will be authorized. Black, shiny, steel-toed boots are authorized for shipboard use because they have special soles and are considered a safety shoe for industrial environments. For those ashore or in nonshipboard commands, the suede "no shine" boot is also authorized.
Q: Can I wear my command-issued foul weather jacket, peacoat or raincoat with the NWU?
A: No. The only jacket authorized for wear with the NWU is the Gore-Tex Jacket. With a removable fleece liner and breathable material, the jacket is designed for a range of temperatures and environments. The fleece liner will not be authorized for wear by itself as an outer garment.
Q: Can I wear my command ball cap with the NWU?
A: The Navy has not yet said if the ball cap will survive. However, most expect that the ball cap will remain for shipboard use, if authorized by the CO.
Q: When will folks in Washington, D.C., be able to wear the uniform, and will there be an adequate supply for those interested? — Lt. Vance Vogel
A: The rollout reaches the Capital Region in October 2009. That's when the Navy Working Uniform will be available for sale in the Washington area. That said, Navy officials have not yet announced the "occasion for wear" rules, which govern when and where the NWU can be worn. Also, it is not yet known whether the Navy will fall in line with the other services and authorize the NWU for wear at the Pentagon and other D.C.-area commands, as done by the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force.
Q: We all hear about this new uniform for the fleet, but about the Navy Seabees? — UT1 Tony Foy
A: Seabees who work directly for Navy Installations Command will wear the NWU. However, it is not clear what Seabees assigned to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command will do. Uniform officials have said all along that sailors working in tactical environments will have the appropriate uniform for those environments — for example, desert or woodland areas — so don't expect to wear the NWU in land-based tactical situations.
Q: Some sailors have modeled the uniform. Are they authorized to wear the one they received? — Douglas Devore
A: If you are referring to the test uniforms worn during the wear tests years ago, no, those uniforms are no longer authorized for wear. However, officials have said there will be some sailors, including key members of the Navy leadership, who could start wearing the uniform sometime in December in an effort to raise awareness the new uniforms are coming.
Q: I read the article and questions regarding the Navy's new cammies. I noted that currently they are only discussing two types of boots. However I was curious if anyone had asked about aviators wearing our coveted brown boots with the uniform. — Lt. Mike Groothousen
A: Aviators' brown boots are organizational clothing and issued with flight suits for a specific job. As such, organizational clothing, though uniforms in the technical sense, are not governed under Navy uniform regulations. I am told there is still discussion going on about some of the items, such as the boots. If your questions aren't addressed when the official rules come out later this year, I would suggest writing a proposal to the Navy Uniform Board.
Q: Do I have to wait for the uniform to be launched in my region before I can wear it?
A: No, you don't have to wait, once the uniform rollout starts, the NWU becomes authorized Navy-wide, however, sailors who were not issued NWUs at boot camp or who purchased them while not assigned to a rollout location must maintain their current working uniforms until the NWU is available where they are assigned.
This also goes for sailors who are stationed in one region, buy their uniform there and transfer to a region that is not yet selling the NWU. Once the rollout has started, sailors are authorized to wear either the NWU and the existing utilities until January 2011.