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Uniform uniformity, function and the military

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Given a number of threads in this section on the general topics of uniform purity vrs field function and occaisional comparison of scouting uniforms to military wear I thought members of the forum would find the article below of interest. Seems like scouts and scouters are not the only ones modifying their uniforms to meet their needs unofficially and it appears as if some of that is becoming officially sanctioned.






By Patrik Jonsson

Thu Mar 6, 3:00 AM ET




FORT BENNING, Ga. - Commando Military Supply on Victory Drive here is about as different from a musty Army surplus store as you can imagine.


More REI than M.A.S.H., Commando is regularly jam-packed with deploying grunts and sergeants, poking around for custom gear including $200 flashlights, $150 Oakley protective sunglasses, $180 Thinsulate boots, and $20 thermal socks.


"When you're comfortable and you know where all your gear is, it makes you a better fighter," says Lt. Tucker Knie, an Army Ranger perusing custom ammo pouches and techno-fiber socks. "You don't want to be rummaging around in your pocket during a firefight."


The traditional Army credo is that it's guts that win the glory not fancy long-johns or Oakley sunglasses. But that old-school thinking is wicking away like perspiration through Gore-Tex as US soldiers today go beyond military-issue battle dress uniforms in favor of top-of-the-line gear to help them get home in one piece and look sharp, too.


One reason, critics say, is that military procurement, especially of life-saving equipment, is still too slow. Quietly, however, the Pentagon with the Army leading the charge has begun bypassing rigid procurement rules, loosening uniformity requirements, and even spearheading technical innovations in gear, ranging from flame-retardant shirts to low-infrared signature zippers.


"The idea now is, 'If it helps Joe do the mission, let him have it as long as it's not hot pink,' " says Army veteran Logan Coffey, founder of Tactical Tailor, a custom-maker of packs and pouches in Lakewood, Wash. "It's a giant change" in the military mind-set, he says in a phone interview.


Since 9/11, the market for tactical war gear has expanded from nearly nonexistent to nearly $150 million in sales each year, which includes sales directly to soldiers as well as to the Pentagon, according to industry sources.


CIA operatives, domestic SWAT teams, and Border Patrol agents are also rounding out their gear at bazaars like Commando.


To some critics, the sight of soldiers buying their own battle gear symbolizes a divide between frontline grunts and rear echelon procurement officers who may never have seen battle. Rep. Gene Taylor (D) of Mississippi told the House Armed Services Committee last week that supplies such as body armor and uparmored Humvees "[have] taken entirely too long" to get to frontline troops.


In some cases, charity groups have stepped in to help. Operation Helmet, founded by Bob Meaders of Montgomery, Texas, shipped special helmet liners to soldiers to replace what many soldiers said were poorly designed helmet pads issued by the Army and the Marines. Just as Operation Helmet thought its work was done late last year, more requests came in from troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.


"The Army is planning a $20 billion future combat system, and they can't provide boots that don't wear out," says Roger Charles, editor of DefenseWatch, an investigative website that advocates on behalf of frontline soldiers. "There's no priority for taking care of relatively mundane items where most people would think, 'Gosh, that's so simple. Why don't they have the best boots, the best uniforms, the best helmets, and the best flak jackets?' "


But through new and rejuvenated efforts like Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, the Soldier Battle Lab here at Fort Benning, and Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., the Army has quickened the supply chain, sometimes against daunting odds, experts say.


For example, PEO Soldier's Rapid Fielding Initiative recently turned around an order for special mountain boots for units in Afghanistan in a month's time. "The Army has never been able to field such updated equipment so quickly before," says Lt. Col. John Lemondes, head of Clothing and Individual Equipment at Fort Belvoir, Va. "We really are moving at the speed of lighting with respect to equipping the war effort."


And at Ft. Lewis, Wash., one unit commander is putting an array of new protective glasses to the test this month. The unit will use discretionary funds to buy the glasses the soldiers prefer.


Moreover, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service reports that sales of tactical gear to units have climbed from $60 million in 2005 to $90 million in 2007. At the same time, there's evidence that soldiers are spending less of their own money on gear: One study found that two years ago, marines were spending $400 of their own money on extra gear; last year, they spent an average of only $100.


"The military is now doing a pretty good job of outfitting the war fighters with what they need, and a lot of it comes from effort and real caring," says Drumm McNaughton, a Navy veteran and management consultant who has written about the struggles of military procurement.


Because little enhancements can make a big difference, soldiers often choose to pick up their own "dirty packs" to augment the issued gear, especially as many feel flush from combat bonuses.


"What's 100 bucks for a flashlight if it's going to work during an attack, and help you fend off a knife fight?" says a Commando clerk, who didn't want to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak by the store manager.


But many soldiers don't blame the Army. One lieutenant shopping at Commando says standard issue gear is usually good enough. His one complaint: the clunky Army cap, which has a thick bill that can't be formed baseball-style. "They need to change it," he says. "It makes you look like a dork."


Even in life and death situations, fashion means something on the battlefield, soldiers say. "The Army does issue everyone glasses, but the young soldier wants to look cool, fashionable. He wants to look sexy," says Mr. Coffey.


The sales growth in custom tactical gear is partly made possible by manufacturing advances that allow companies to make profit on small batch orders. But for war fighters, a perk to the hard slog is being allowed to put their own spin on the Army look.


"One of the basic tensions is that in the Army there's pressure for a strong collective identity ... to develop this feeling of belongingness and camaraderie," says Frederic Brunel, a marketing professor at Boston University. "At the same time, there is a basic human need to pull away from that ... [to] retain some sense of self-identity that is separate from the group identity."



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Is this article really about the uniform or about modifying the uniform? It's about personal gear isn't it?.


Even if you compare it to the BSA; has underwear, flashlights, sunglasses, etc. ever been considered as uniform pieces in Boy Scouting?



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BW, the statement that caught my eye was:


""The idea now is, 'If it helps Joe do the mission, let him have it as long as it's not hot pink,' " says Army veteran Logan Coffey, founder of Tactical Tailor, a custom-maker of packs and pouches in Lakewood, Wash. "It's a giant change" in the military mind-set, he says in a phone interview. "


There have been several threads discussing this issue in the Uniforms section. Here's an example of one uniformed organization apparently relaxing it's uniform standards to better accomplish it's mission. If the word "military" was removed from this paragraph and "scouting" inserted, do folks think a more relaxed approach towards the uniform method might make accomplishing the mission of of scouting easier, better, more difficult?


Some members of this forum have essentially already answered the question in previous posts. I thought they might be interested in knowing that the US Military seems to have come to a similar conclusion.


I'm referencing the article and asking the question for purposes of general discussion among a friendly group of scouters in a campfire atmosphere.



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In my most humble of opinions, It is my belief that the person completes the mission, in the Military and in Scouting. The Gear is there to help you.


I think the thread is about using what the Organization prescribes v. using what works - as long as it doesn't directly offend the Organization.


The basic gear is good enough, but I was also an early adopter of non-standard glasses and sunglasses (before I had Lasik). I also used makes of Diving lights or Streamlights well before I was aware that the SureFire brand hit the market - they are great by the way, currently own two. I owned synthetic base layers at a time when you could only get them from Specialty catalog outfits or Running stores. I had and used in the field a Gore-Tex tent when I had never met anyone who owned a Gore-Tex Jacket.


Sometimes good enough just isn't what is called for - a tarp is good enough but when there is a foot of snow on the ground isn't a tent better?


As to clothing in Scouting, for what it costs, in this area WE (my Troop) will probably never be fully uniformed during outings. We have never been all together in the same place in the SAME uniform(even all in bluejeans, or all in shorts) in almost a year. Part of it is that the parents don't see the benefit of uniforming and Catch-22, won't until they try it or support it.

And unless I as the Scoutmaster buy it, as someone else has pointed out, am not in charge of what motivations or(by extension)clothing parents put in the Scouts possession.

As a matter of fact as of this moment I have NEVER seen ANY Troop all in the correct uniform at the same time. The same, yes, correct, NO.

And wouldn't BSA be concerned with any item that showed under the uniform, Or covered it up? I.E the Sweater discussion currently(or that just took) taking place on this forum?


So, for me, using alternate items, especially for outings, isn't a big deal at all.


Although, I have stuck to my guns and am only wearing Switchbacks, but don't have enough "scouting" T-shirts to say I am staying in an Activity uniform 100%.

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acco40, In response to that view.


Does BSA pay for an initial uniform issue?


Can BSA refer subject a Scout or Scouter to the criminal justice system in order to, restrict their movement, reduce their income, indeed incarcerate the Scout for failure to follow it's uniforming guidelines?


The military can. And could be one reason why there is such adherence in the military and why the news article in question, is news.

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The article would seem to be about using personal equipment that works, not about altering the uniform, and when was the BSA ever against letting a member choose their own personal gear?


Nothing in the article suggests the soldiers are changing the uniform at will. Even the comment on the hat wasn't that he got a different hat but that he hoped the army would change it, not because iot did't function weel, but only because he thought he would LOOK BETTER in a different hat.


Everything mentioned in the article seems to be personal gear, isn't it?


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1)the thread originator has chimed in on the direction he intended for the thread.


2)Context driven argument,


You are thinking only of the clothing as the uniform, in fact every item of equipment from Boot to Sleeping bag, to Sunglasses, to Umbrella to Purse or Backpack and LBE(Load Bearing Equipment) even to the way they are carried and by either male or female falls under uniform regulations in the military.


If I were in the Marine Corps and told you to bring your issue flashlight then I better see a GI green or black angle headed flashlight with filters red, blue, clear or yellow and "polarizing". If you had a Surefire with red and blue filters you may or you may not get into trouble - mostly depending on whether or not I wanted to accomplish a function or wanted obedience to orders - remember Criminal jeopardy or an a** kicking may apply. In this case it is not personal gear.


Same thing goes for underwear/base layers the mission Commander may not have given you all of the information about why there will be no synthetics and prescribed cotton for a reason - or perhaps purely on a whim - in either case once prescribed it is a lawful order to have it and not personal gear. And again Criminal jeopardy may be attached.


In fact, any item that can be seen through or under (think long johns showing at the collar of your BDU blouse) that is not an issue item or has been proscribed(not misspelled) COULD be reason to charge one with being out of uniform.


When you try to make the comparison the context has to come in.


Uniform articles specifically mentioned in the article include:Oakley Protective Sunglasses, Thinsulate Boots, Socks, Ammo Pouches, (by construction Gore-tex garments vice cotton long johns... I don't think they even make these), flame retardant shirts, Tactical Tailor (Good stuff by the way.)packs and pouches, Helmet pads - I like Oregon Aero stuff but they aren't specifically mentioned but the fellow and his organization who is mentioned buys a lot of their stuff. Flak jackets - what the guys are really buying aren't flak Jackets(mentioned in article) but Bullet?proof? vests and/or trauma plates(not mentioned in article).


So as you can see uniform may mean entirely different things to a civilian and to a military member.



I think we would agree that someone not wearing BSA green socks with the red rim at the top would be out of uniform - But would we agree that If you were wearing a Coat/Jacket other than the ones sold by BSA that one was out of uniform. Pedantically, only the Red Jac-shirt and possibly the nylon windbreaker would be approved for uniform wear - everyone else wearing a coat, jacket or sweater is out of uniform.

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Way back in the 80's when I was an ROTC cadet we weren't even allowed to "wear" a civilian backpack on campus while in uniform. The same uniform rigidity applied to socks, glasses, etc. So while the article seems to be about personal gear, it really represents a fundamental shift in policy.


On another note, I took some Webelos to a camporee this past weekend and noticed a large number of scouts wearing switchbacks during times that they would have ordinarily not been in uniform. I didn't see the first pair of de la Rentas on anyone younger than 30.


I believe that the "if you build it they will come" approach will work equally well with the rest of the uniform, military inspiration or not. Functional attractive uniforms will be accepted and worn.


While the military seems to be allowing some personal freedom, the basics are not modified. For example, you won't catch anyone wearing unit insignia on their right sleeve unless they've earned it. Of course there's a regulation for that, but the culture is really what enforces it. Our approach should be the same; we need to be sticklers about the things that matter, and not lose any sleep over the things that don't.

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Hot Foot Eagle,


Even today, the Military provided issue prescription glasses are the only authorized uniform prescription eyewear.


Most of the time you can wear what you want(eyewear) as long as it isn't overly eccentric out of formation but in formation its either the issue glasses or take your personal ones off and be blind until the formation is over, at least in CONUS.

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Nowhere does the BSA say that you are out of uniform if you do not wera the red jacket. Nowhere does the BSA require that you use any specific personal gear.


I understand what the poster said the intend was, my point is that the article does not address that intent. And nowhere does the BSA show concern for uniform purity. I can show you a two dozen Boys Scouts in two dozen different Boy Scout uniforms that are all worn correctly without being identical to each other. Purity is not an issue, at least not with the BSA.


And what flashlight you carry does not matter.



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OK I can see where the arguments are here.


After spending 11 years in the military, I have learned a few things about uniforms and gear.


When it comes down to the Duty uniform, It WILL BE RIGHT. If not you have to make immediate corrections. Trust em I have had something wrong with my uniform a time or two and have to suffer the punishment, what ever it may be. We live and learn.


As for the duty shirt (BDU, DCU, ACU, jungles, deserts, fatigues, what ever you want to call them) The ARMY requlation (Sorry Gunny I do not know the USMC regs) states that the uniform parts may be worn with civilian clothes as long as ALL military insignia has been removed, ie rank, unit identifier, US Army tape, skills badges. So if I want to take my jacket and remove insignia and wear it down the street I can.


The military is supposed to provide you with ALL the clothing and equipment that you need to complete the mission. Now the mission changes and the clothing and equipment needs change. The military is trying to keep up. They are doing the best with what they have in my opinion. Maybe they can do better, but items are getting to the frontline faster than ever before.


As for the modification of the uniform. If you have seen the new Army Combat UNiform (ACU) then you will notice slanted pockets on the sleeves and pockets on the legs. These were placed based on the fact that soldiers were modifying their uniforms in combat theater to accomidate. We couldn't reach our pockets under the body armor so we put them on the sleeves and pants. Provided FUNCTIONALITY and most commanders did not complain as long as it was only in theater.


So are you telling me that if I want to wear my military rucksack to a Cub Scout outting then I am wrong. It is LARGE (plenty of room) and Camoflage, OH NO. I am still going to use it. I do not have the $150 to go out and buy something that is equally large and light. Sorry.


As for every scout in the right uniform. I could only wish that every scout troop, pack, crew, ship, or other had a budget to give every scout a complete uniform, including pants and activity shirts. Only then would we have ground to stand on when it comes to uniforms.


I will tell you that from my personal experiance, I was so happy to just have all of my tiger cubs in uniform shirts with neckerchiefs at the blue and gold banquet. Take your little victories.


As for me wearing my BDU pants when we are on outings. I find it helpful as a leader to have large pockets on my legs to keep notebooks and other stuff where I can reach it. Sorry. FUNCTIONALITY.


That is all I have for now. I will respond later to those who dispute my posting.


PS Hot_foot_Eagle The Army has changed the regs on backpacks, you can now carry one on your shoulder as long as it is black, cammo matching the uniform, and has no logos. I prefer to stick with the black.

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"So are you telling me that if I want to wear my military rucksack to a Cub Scout outting then I am wrong"


Yep. There's the famous (infamous) Roy Williams memo that clearly states that military field gear is not to be used and that camouflage is prohibited.


Of course this rule is widely and openly flaunted. I wear an Alice butt pack for day hikes. My camp shovel is a Bundeswehr entrenching tool. Strangely, the two camp shovels offered by ScoutStuff are cheap copies of military shovels. I wear a surplus Wooly-pully when hiking. My camping sewing kit is Brit milsurp. I use a GI 2 qt. canteen because even with cover, it weighs less than two lexan bottles.


Yep, even I, the rule guy, break some of the rules that have nothing to do with playing the game.

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