It's time to officially start going green.
The woodland digital cammies became the Navy's standard uniform in October as the service dumps the blue-and-gray cammies and shifts every sailor to a combat utility uniform for the first time.
The green-and-tan Navy working uniform, officially known as the NWU Type III, has been worn for six years by expeditionary sailors.
Donning the green cammies seemed universally popular on the decks of the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima. More than half-a-dozen sailors who spoke to Navy Times about the shift said they preferred the appearance and comfort of these green duds over the "blueberries" that will be phased out by 2020.
"It's a change of color really, but I think it's pretty awesome," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Menjivar, who is an aviation boatswain's mate. "I had a chance to wear the uniform, it's pretty comfortable. The boots especially, there is a lot more cushion and they are better for your feet."
A Seabee leader said it was great that the rest of the force was adopting this uniform.
"For me, personally it's a service thing now to wear this uniform," said Master Chief Petty Officer (SCW/FMF/SW/MTS) Corey Heinrich, the top enlisted sailor of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command's headquarters. "And as for identity, the Bees will always have their badge on the pocket — and other commands have unit identity through other patches and ball caps. Now, it's really a Navy thing and a great uniform for everyone to wear."
Photo Credit: Staff
Nixing aquaflage from seabags is just a start for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s seabag slimming efforts.
"The transition from the NWU Type I to the Type III will eliminate one of the Navy's three camouflage patterns and ultimately improve uniformity among the force," said CNP spokeswoman Sharon Anderson. "We continue to review the seabag in an effort to streamline it."
The shift to the more comfortable uniform comes with some differences. Heinrich and another Seabee master chief offer some tips on how to wear this uniform right. Here's what you need to know about your new working uniform:
1. Coming soon. Another big uniform shift has begun.
Every enlisted will be given money to purchase new sets of the woodland cammies. Recruits will start being issued them at boot camp.
Those in the expeditionary forces who now wear the green-and-tans may have to turn them in if they're organizational clothing, which is tracked separately from the apparel issued to sailors. By Oct. 1, 2019, sailors will no longer be permitted to wear the blue cammies.
In some cases, sailors wearing organizational sets of the greens can continue wearing them until they wear out, officials confirmed.
"Navy is going as far as they can to smooth transition for people already wearing the uniform," said Heinrich of NECC. "It was great to see them take a common sense approach to the transition."
2. Filling your seabag. The Navy is now ramping up procurement to have these in uniform stores around the world.
Officials say it will be at least a year until green-and-tan cammies go on sale at uniform stores.
Photo Credit: Navy
It's likely to be over a year before most Navy Exchanges will have the woodland cammies available for purchase. Officials expect it will take most of the next year to get production to a sustainable level so they can be shipped and available on sale racks.
Before the fleet roll-out, Recruit Training Center Great Lakes, Illinois will begin to issue the woodland utilities to recruits, as will Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island; officials expect that to begin in October 2017.
"During this time, production rates will increase in order to support an expanded roll-out," said Kristine Sturkie, spokeswoman for the Navy Exchange Service Command. "Roll-out in early fiscal year 2018 will likely target fleet concentration areas first as inventories will allow, but at this juncture, we cannot confirm that Norfolk and San Diego will be the initial outfitting sites."
As production ramps up, she said, "we'll be able to determine the roll out plan to specific regions."
The size of the initial roll-out is still being worked out. One proposal would require every sailor to have two sets of the green cammies, but that's based on decisions about fleet uniforms. Fleet Forces Command is in the process of developing a flame-resistant underway uniform intended to replace the uncomfortable Flame Resistant Variant coveralls. Options include a flight suit-style uniform or better designed coveralls, either of which could phase out the poly-cotton utility coveralls still issued.
Given these uncertainties, officials are still working out the make-up of the seabag for 2019 and beyond.
3. Paying for it. These duds aren't coming cheap.
Giving 436,000 active-duty and reserve sailors at least one set of a utility uniform that costs more than $100 is an expensive proposition. Indeed, Navy officials told Navy Times in August that they expect the effort will cost around $180 million over five years.
That includes funds to plus-up sailors' uniform allowances in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Don't expect to see the massive allowance increases seen when the Navy adopted the blue NWUs a decade ago. Officials say to expect a small increase, the exact figure of which won't be known until early 2017.
The service is allowing sailors to wear some blue NWU components with the woodland cammies — black fleece, socks and existing boots — so you won't see any additional money for those items.
Who's paying depends on what's on your insignia tab.
Chiefs, petty officers and seamen will get an allowance to purchase the required sets and new accessories for them.
The waist band features elastic and must be worn with a brown rigger's belt.
Photo Credit: Staff file photo
But officers must pay out of their own pocketbooks. U.S. law, which dates back as long as two centuries, requires military officers to buy their own uniforms — save for an "initial outfitting" allowance of $400 that's only paid when an officer is commissioned.
4. Design differences. Many sailors are excited to don the green cammies. The switch from the blue NWU Type I to greens should be simple for most, since the manner of wear and wear rules are the same. (The desert digital cammies, known as the NWU Type II, are only worn by those assigned to Naval Special Warfare.)
"The fit of the uniform is extremely comfortable," he said in a recent interview at NECC in Virginia Beach, Virginia. "There's integrated patches in the knees and elbow areas and the cut allows for a natural bend, no binding.
"This is a huge one that sailors will love. And of course, the material is a lighter and much more breathable, making it comfortable in high-heat environments — way more bearable than the Type Is."
One big difference is the "mandarin" collar.
"The Type III is designed with a Velcro closing on the collar when in body armor and must be stowed properly when not in use," he said. "It's easy to do, but something that must be learned."
The pockets have Velcro seals to keep the stuff inside secure.
Photo Credit: Staff file photo
Heinrich advises sailors to buy extra rank insignia and keep them in your car or work space — just in case.
Another improvement, he said, is all the pockets have Velcro fasteners on the pockets that prevents things from falling out.
5. Wearing it right. That starts with a big don't: No starching.
Using starch will degrade the fabric. Sailors can iron it using a warm-steam iron, but it's designed not to need pressing. Heinrich offered one trick to make them look good without ironing.
"I recommend to all my sailors, if they want a more professional, cleaned pressed look to pull them out of the dryer while it's still spinning and immediately hang them up — don't let them sit," he said. "It may seem like a small thing, but it makes a lot of difference."
Rolling the sleeves is easy with the woodland cammies, said another Seabee master chief on the NECC staff.
"To get a good looking roll, keep your first fold no farther than the midpoint of your [sleeve] pocket and each fold after under three inches to allow the last fold to completely cover the inside-out portion," said Master Chief (SCW) Todd Bernashe.
Then again, you may not need to do this since the woodland cammies are more breathable than the blue NWUs.
"I do believe many sailors, when given the option, choose not to roll their sleeves due to the thinner material of the uniform," he added.
6. Headgear. Sailor have three options for headear, based on their command.
There's the eight-point covers originally designed for the uniform. Then the blue command ball caps, which were OK'd two years ago in response to sailor demands.
And then there's the "coyote brown" ball caps that were authorized earlier this year with the desert and woodland NWUs.
"Across the expeditionary forces, commands are embracing the ball cap — as we go around to commands, we're seeing them more and more," Heinrich said.
The roll-out of the woodland cammies opens the door for commands to wear the blue or brown ball caps.
This opens the door for ships to have both blue and brown ball cap's if they so choose.
"We authorized the coyote brown [ball cap] about a year ago to really allow those in the expeditionary combat community that flexibility, but we also authorized the blue ball cap with the Type IIIs," Burke, the chief of naval personnel, said in August. "We're sensitive to how much sailors love their ball caps. What color a command uses will be the commander's discretion."
7. Footwear. For most of the fleet, the existing black boots will be the standard footwear worn with the woodland cammies. To be sure, that's one of the three authorized options.
But those whose primary duties are on the flight line and flight deck can wear the flight deck boot — an eight-inch, leather boot with a FOD outsole steel toe.
And commands can allow sailors to wear the tan or coyote brown boots with the woodland cammies.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has championed a new, revised boot and development is underway.
By and large, sailors love the tan, rough-side out boot, according to Bernashe — but it needs some sailor TLC.
8. More clothing money. With new crackerjack blues and whites on the horizon for men and women, sailors will see a few plus-ups in their annual clothing allowances in the coming year.
What the seabag requirement will be for the woodland cammies is still being figured out. Currently, sailors must have three sets of the blue-and-grays. With the possibility of a new fire-retardant shipboard uniform, the final seabag could feature fewer sets of cammies.
Sailors are paid annually a pro-rated amount of the replacement for each seabag item once it's in the fleet.
"When a new uniform item is issued at Boot Camp, sailors will begin to see a plus up for the purchase amount of new items on the anniversary month of their service," Anderson said.
"For example, female E-6 and below sailors will receive one-third of the cost of the new Service Dress Blue uniform this year and will have obtained the full cost to purchase the uniform by the mandatory wear date in October of 2019."
Staff writer David B. Larter contributed to this report.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.