The Navy’s gone green, but for some sailors a detail on the service’s new woodland cammies is causing them to see red.
The Navy officially switched to the NWU Type III Oct. 1, and with it the rank insignia that formerly sat on the blouse collar moved to the middle of the chest ― leading to frustration with uncomfortable stares, some sailors say.
After receiving an “earful” about that, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr. and Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer said during a recent Facebook Live event that they are considering changes.
“We have gotten an earful of feedback," Koshoffer said. “One of the issues, visibility of the rank insignia on the chest and the fact that female sailors, many have communicated that they’re uncomfortable with that.”
Koshoffer’s comment came in response to a question read during the event from an unnamed sailor who said that they were uncomfortable staring at a female sailor’s chest to see her rank.
“It’s hard to identify even from a few feet away in the type IIIs," asked the sailor, whose gender was not given. “Why can’t we go back to ranks on 8-point covers or somewhere different on the uniform blouse?”
The Navy announced in 2016 that it was moving to the green-and-tan woodland uniform already worn by expeditionary forces from the NWU Type I, called “blueberries."
That uniform was also beset by problems. Highly flammable, it was banned as the working uniform at sea and became the butt of jokes among those who said it too easily blended in with the ocean in an overboard scenario.
Along with the uniform switch, the Navy removed rank insignia from the type III cover, replacing it instead with the anchor, constitution and eagle logo.
Koshoffer said the intent was to streamline the sea bag and save costs, not to cause confusion or discomfort.
“We’re not ready to immediately reverse back to the rank on the hat, but we hear you on the uncomfortable gaze and we hear you on the visibility issue with the rank insignia and we’re just going to go to work on that problem,” he said, citing a pilot in Nowell’s front office in which staff are trying out insignia on the collar and other placements.
Cmdr. Dave Hecht, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel, told Navy Times that the question about the rank insignia’s placement came up during recent all-hands calls Nowell held with sailors in Europe as well as during recent stops in Jacksonville and Mayport in Florida and King’s Bay in Georgia.
While there is no deadline for a switch, Hecht said it is “under serious consideration and currently being reviewed.”
Courtney Mabeus is a senior writer at Navy Times. Mabeus previously covered the military for The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier.