Consider it a parting gift: A memo approved by former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus officially allows sailors to retain the Navy Working Uniform Type IIIs once their tours are over.

The new rule was set by Mabus' approval of an action memo from now former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Franklin Parker recommending the change, stating the move was within Mabus' authority under Title 10 of the U.S. Code.  

A copy of the memo was obtained by Navy Times Jan. 27 and confirmed as authentic.

The memo authorizes sailors "who have been deployed in support of a contingency operation for at least 30 days to retain, after those members are no longer deployed, the combat uniform they were issued as organizational clothing," Franklin said in the action memo.

There's a little fine print as the approval, officials say, applies only to those who have been issued the uniform and who also deploy for at least 30-days in support of "contingency operations" wearing it.

Organizational clothing is issued to sailors who need uniforms for their official duties that are not in their seabags at boot camp, such as fire-retardant coveralls and flight suits. But this memo only applies to those issued the NWU Type IIIs. The uniforms are paid for out of command operational funds and not out of sailor's clothing allowances — or in the case for officers, their own pockets. 

Navy officials estimate that over 50,000 sailors currently are issued the uniforms by their commands, many of those sailors are assigned to deploying units under the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.

The memo also gives a broad definition to "contingency operations," stating they "are military operations that are either specifically designated by the Secretary of Defense or that result in the active duty of service members during a war or national emergency declared by the President."

The memo goes on to state that the country has been continuously at war and under such a presidential proclamation since Sept. 11, 2001. This means, if you have been issued Type III’s and deployed for at least 30 days in a job that required that uniform since that date, you can keep your green cammies as long as they are usable.

The Navy started to transition the entire service into the green cammies as their primary shore-based working uniform starting Oct. 1, 2016. Everyone must be wearing them by Oct. 1, 2019, which is also when boot camp issue is slated to begin. This uniform replaces the existing blueberry Type I.

Enlisted sailors will see plus ups in their uniform allowances starting this year in preparation for purchasing the uniforms once they are available in exchanges. Officers must pay out of pocket for purchasing the required three sets.

Officials are "tentatively" saying the Navy Exchanges will start stocking the new camouflage uniforms this fall.

Authorizing those already wearing Type IIIs to keep and wear the uniform, Franklin said in the memo, not only "negates the requirement for turn-in," but it also "facilitates early wear, enhances Type III transition as desired by the Chief of Naval Operations and mitigates out of pocket expenses to procure new uniforms by eligible service members."

Read the action memo here.

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.

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