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Marine Corps retreats after 'girlie' cap controversy hits epic peak

Oct. 27, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
(Marine Corps photo illustration)
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Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly (Courtesy of Marine Corps History Division)

The Marine Corps is furiously backpedaling after announcing it could adopt a modified female dress cap as a unisex cover for all Marines, an idea that immediately sparked outrage among the service's rank and file.

The Marine Corps is furiously backpedaling after announcing it could adopt a modified female dress cap as a unisex cover for all Marines, an idea that immediately sparked outrage among the service's rank and file.

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The Marine Corps is furiously backpedaling after announcing it could adopt a modified female dress cap as a unisex cover for all Marines, an idea that immediately sparked outrage among the service’s rank and file.

But the anger reached unprecedented levels when national and international media began erroneously reporting that President Obama himself was behind an effort to make all male and female Marines wear “girlie” hats.

Described as the “Dan Daly cap,” the new female cover was floated in a Corps-wide survey as one of two possible options for a unisex cover that all Marines would wear.

Distributed by the Marine Corps’ Uniform Board, the survey asked Marines “whether the Corps should adopt universal unisex dress and service caps — either the current male frame cap with modifications or the Dan Daly cap, which had previously been identified as the replacement cap for the female ‘bucket’ cover,” according to an Oct. 18 press release from Marine Corps Systems Command.

Shortly after Marine Corps Times broke the story Oct. 21, garnering an immediate negative reaction from Marines, it grabbed national media attention and elicited thousands of blistering comments from both military and non-military readers, who nearly unanimously opposed the possibility of adopting the female cover, which features a significantly smaller crown.

MARCORSYSCOM’s news release was removed from the Marine Corps’ website Oct. 25.

The Dan Daly is so named because of its strong resemblance to the cap worn by two-time Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, who is best known for his World War I exploits at Belleau Wood.

Readers unflatteringly compared it to train conductor, bell hop or high school marching band hats. Others said changing the cover would tamper with tradition and destroy a time-honored uniform that sets Marines apart from other services.

As the outrage reached a crescendo, Capt. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman at Headquarters Marine Corps, insisted the commandant never had any intention of adopting the Daly cap as a universal cover. The cap was recommended by the Uniform Board and approved by the commandant in 2009 as an improved female cover, he said.

But the survey, while non-binding and used only to inform the Uniform Board during its deliberative and voting process, included photos of male Marines wearing the Daly cap and asked Marines to weigh in.

A copy of the original survey, obtained by Marine Corps Times, asks Marines to vote on one of two options: “Option 1: Adopt the Dan Daly cap as the universal cap” or “Option 2: Adopt the current male frame cap as the universal cap (with some modifications to make it more comfortable but maintain the same distinctive look).”

Desperate to quash the outrage that was spinning out of control and dispel the misinformation spread by other media outlets that the proposed change was the result of pressure from President Obama, the Marine Corps published a statement front-and-center on the Marines.mil homepage.

“No change in Male Cover: The President in no way, shape or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover. We are looking for a new cover for our female Marines for one overriding reason: the former manufacturer went out of business. The Marine Corps has zero intention of changing the male cover,” the announcement read.

Regarding the photos, officials said “this is standard practice while conducting surveys.”

Col. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers, the Marine Corps Uniform Board president said: “The surveys often contain photo illustrations that portray what a uniform article might look like when worn by a Marine. This is a very standard practice. While there was never any desire or intent to change the male Marine dress cover, the feedback we have received to maintain this iconic cover has been heard, loud and clear.”

While the Uniform Board survey ran through Oct. 25, preceding the convening of the board on Oct. 29, the unparalled outrage — coupled with the strong statements that the commandant has no intention of adopting the Dan Daly as a universal cover — virtually assure that the option is now dead. If senior leaders have any interest left in a universal cover, it would almost certainly involve women wearing the current male cover.

This is not the first time Uniform Board proceedings have become embroiled in controversy. In 2011, the Uniform Board voted to require Marines to wear utility uniform sleeves rolled down all year — even in summer — which contradicted survey results that showed the majority of rank-and-file Marines opposed the change. Many said it robbed them of a uniform tradition that helped distinguish them from soldiers, sailors and airmen. But the initiative was supported by Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett and approved by Commandant Gen. Jim Amos.

Still, that controversy remained largely within the Marine Corps family. The “girlie hat” fiasco reached epic proportions.

The Uniform Board may still review possible changes to women’s dress blue uniforms. During ongoing testing at Marine Corps Barracks Washington, women who march in ceremonial events don male covers and wear dress blue jackets with mandarin collars like those worn by men.

Male and female Marine surveyed earlier this summer voiced strong opposition to women wearing male dress blues. Of roughly 300 readers surveyed by Marine Corps Times, 92 percent were opposed, including 79 percent of women and 94 percent of men.

“Our commanding officer is going to be meeting with the uniform board to discuss the way ahead, and we're waiting on the commandant's guidance before we do anything further,” Capt. Jack Norton, a Marine spokesman, said.

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