Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Ryan Davis unwittingly became the poster boy for the fleet's new flame-resistant coveralls in mid-October.
Davis, a sailor on the deployed aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, was using a grinding wheel that kicked up sparks of super hot slag onto his coveralls on Oct. 20.
"I was grinding on a chair foundation for about 15 minutes, when sparks of hot metal landed on my [flame resistant variant] coveralls," Davis said in an Oct. 30 Navy newsstand story. said Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Ryan Davis."I didn't notice the hot pieces of metal on my uniform, or how long they were there until the fire watch noticed a small flame coming from my coveralls."
The slag set a patch of Davis' coveralls alight and the fire watch, Sonar Technician 1st Class Thomas Pauli, patted it out with his hand, according to the newsstand story.
The fire left a quarter-sized hole in Davis' coveralls. But Davis' run-in also showed what the new coveralls don't do — rapidly burn and melt. The flame-resistant variant coveralls (FRVs), made of cotton treated with a flame-resistant coating, material resisted spreading the flame and did not melt, according to a photo of Davis' coveralls afterward showed.
That's in stark contrast to there's no sign of meltingThat had material's resistance to spreading the flame and the lack of melting stands in stark contrast to the utility coveralls that were the fleet standard up until last year. Utility coveralls, like the Navy working uniform, are not flame-resistant and have synthetic threads that are susceptible to melting in a fire. A startling Navy test in 2012 found that the blue-and-gray NWU quickly catches on fire and will burn until engulfed.
After studying those concerns, fleet bosses fast-tracked the new coveralls to boost sailors' fire-protection. They are made of the same fabric as the damage control coveralls issued out of repair lockers: 100 percent cotton treated with an FR coating.
The Navy began issuing sets a year ago and has nearly finished the initial outfitting. Over 325,000 pairs of coveralls have been issued to sailors assigned to ships and squadrons, clothing an estimated 92 percent of fleet sailors, according to figures from Fleet Forces Command. Submarine sailors are still wearing utility coveralls as officials search for a low-lint material that will meet their requirements.
To be sure, the FRV coveralls are not perfect. Sailors have complained that sizing is odd and that the material is too heavy, a likely consequence of the FR coating. They're darker than the utility coveralls, whose shine came from the polyester threads absent in the FRV. And they tend to have a rumpled appearance after being worn.
Fleet officials say these are the initial sets and they're working on improvements.