PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
The Commandant of the Marine Corps approved several uniform changes documented in a Marine Administrative Message in December.
The first issue considered was whether Marine officers would be required to maintain the officer sword, or if it would become optional. The debate was raised during a Marine Corps Uniform Board meeting in February 2009, after more than 2,500 Marines from 17 units had provided feedback on uniform proposals.
“Unfortunately, there is only one manufacturer left in the world, and they haven't been able to keep up with the demand, making it difficult for officers to procure the item,” said Mary Boyt, the uniform board program manager. “Additionally, it is a big financial burden on some young officers,” she explained.
However, the members of the board as well as the Commandant of the Marine Corps agreed to disapprove the recommendation to do away with the ceremonial weapon, Boyt said. While this initiative doesn't make the sword any more affordable, it does maintain the proud tradition of officers and the sword manual of arms, she added.
The decision was cemented in MarAdmin 0704/09, which declares the officer sword and its accessories remain required uniform items.
“It’s definitely something we need to keep,” said Capt. John Turner, the assistant operations and logistics officer at Recruit Training Regiment. “The Marine Corps prides itself on history, heritage and tradition, and the sword has been around since the 18th century,” said Turner, of Blue Bell, Pa. “The Mameluke sword is the manifestation of core values in weapon form.”
The order, however, did allow for several uniform changes, including the authorization of white synthetic undershirts in the service and dress blue uniforms – a recommendation that came from Marines serving here at Parris Island.
“This proposal came from the drill instructors, who think the synthetic shirts provide a neater appearance and a more comfortable fabric, especially in a hot (and) humid environment,” Boyt said.
She said the board decided the privilege should be extended Corps-wide but must be certified by Marine Corps Systems Command.
The authorization of the synthetic shirts is a change that is welcomed by many of the drill instructors aboard the Depot.
“The cotton undershirts lose their visual appeal after you wear them,” said Staff Sgt. Cliff Reynolds, a drill instructor with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. “They cause us drill instructors, who are constantly on the move, to sweat a lot. If your uniform doesn’t look the way it’s supposed to, then it’s a bad reflection on the Marine Corps.”
The board also voted on headgear options in issued flight suits.
“When the Commandant established seasonal uniforms, he also required the wear of seasonally appropriate flight suits – unfortunately, no headgear was developed to go with it,” Boyt explained.
“Marines may now wear the service uniform garrison cap and the Marine Corps combat utility uniform field or garrison caps in both woodland or desert.”
“This change standardized something that was not previously standardized, eliminating confusion and allowing for uniformity within aviation commands,” Boyt said.
Another amendment to the uniform policy was placement of medals, badges and ribbons on the female service and dress coat.
“This guidance was necessary because when the faux pocket flap was removed from the coats, Marines lost their reference point for lining up the insignia,” Boyt said. “Marines had to eyeball the alignment, and it was not easily inspected or uniform through the female Marine population.”
The new regulation states that insignia will be placed on a horizontal line 1 ½ to 3 ½ inches above the top of the first visible coat button and centered.
Board members also decided to change the placement regulations of the Marine Gunner insignia. The insignia will be placed on the collar in a line bisecting the point of the collar with the lower edge of the bomb equally spaced ½ inch from the sides of the utility collar and ¾ of an inch from the sides of the khaki shirt collar.
The Commandant, however, denied the motion to change the olive green undershirts to coyote brown.
“Switching shirt colors was considered cosmetic and would have required more funding and logistics coordination and could have required switching the color of the physical training uniform,” Boyt explained.