The New Navy?

| December 12, 2012

Admittedly I’m 40+ years out of the USN. Also admittedly I actually LIKED the chambray shirts and bell bottoms as work duds. Countless fire training exercises, and other Damage Control drills leaves me wondering what the hell is going on just now.
Navy uniform ‘will burn robustly until it is consumed’

The Navy removed its requirement in 1996 that uniforms had to be flame retardant, and have been providing special uniforms to engine room, flight-related, firefighters and damage control personnel since then. But this means other personnel working in spaces with fuel lines, oil, steam, heat and tons of combustibles overhead, underneath, and in nearby passageways are ready to be robustly barbecued.

Sooo…. in 40 years our Navy has yet to figure out how to utilize self-extinguishing fabrics? AND I still think that this particular color pattern makes it harder to locate a “man overboard”.

H/T H Lucien Gauthier III

Category: Geezer Alert!, Navy

Comments (28)

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  1. pete says:

    damn!! i’m required to wear my FR’S when i work the oil patch!!

  2. Adirondack Patriot says:

    Hey, it’s not like we didn’t learn from the Forrestal fire that all of the DC and Firemen may get killed in the intitial response, and the common sailor will be left to fight the fires.

    WTF, ADM Gortney?

    Oh, and I remember after the USS Stark incident they prohibited wearing Bates floataways while underway because the plastic melted into the skin fo the sailors fighting the fires.

    Lessons unlearned.

  3. NHSparky says:

    Zero–no way in hell I’d be wearing those underway, particularly in Engineering spaces. Thankfully, saner heads have prevailed on that score. Guys on the boat are still wearing poopy suits (coveralls).

    And yeah, while the old bell-bottoms made us look like something straight out of the Village People sometimes, they were cheap, easy to maintain, and on the FR dungarees, you damn near had to hit ’em with a blowtorch before they’d ignite.

    Someone’s getting a shitload of money for the aquaflage, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

  4. RM3(SS) says:

    Loved wearing the Dungarees! Plus, the chicks dug ’em. 🙂

  5. Just an Old Dog says:

    Aquaflauge,,, gotta be the most stupid thing I’ve heard of. I guess they are trying to make every sailor feel like they are some sort of special ops bad-ass. Blue water squids probably work as hard and get as dirty as any service member.Crawling through those tight spaces, dragging wrenches to do PM, doing those 2 hour unreps and standing those 6 on 6 off watches. Gotta remember during the holidays or whenever, unlike most of us service guys of whom 95% can take off, those ships require about 1/3 of the crew to stay onboard.
    Go back to the dungarees and dog bowls on your heads. Its the uniform of a working man, and nothing to be ashamed of.

  6. nucsnipe says:

    Im with NHSparky, the Navy had it right with the coveralls. Best laugh I ever got was one night on watch, decided to do some laundry, washed out a couple pairs of coveralls and zipped them up around a vent duct to dry. Watch Supervisor came by and started freaking out cause he thought someone was hanging from the duct with their head stuffed in it.

  7. Adirondack Patriot says:

    Aquaflage. . . a.k.a. Tactical Blueberry.

  8. nucsnipe says:

    And the time I stuffed a pair of coveralls with inflated trash bags and arranged it to look like some one was sleeping at the desk on the Upper level and the EWS smacked it on the back to wake it up and it imploded.

  9. A65l says:

    Ya’ll are forgetting the outstanding utility uniform the navy had from ’97 or so until they adopted the ACU style uniform. That, for my money,was the best working uniform they had. A little more pricey, true, but they lasted forever, and were actually comfortable. And had pockets you could actually use. And a uniform jacket that actually kept your warm….

  10. AnotherNuke says:

    The NWU has actually grown on me. It has a million huge pockets (and once you’re out of boot camp you’re actually allowed to put things in them – just not your hands!), it’s pretty comfortable, and fairly damage-resistant. The creases are somehow put into it with such force that it will still look sat if you ball it up and leave it at the bottom of your locker for a month.

    That said, it still looks kind of daft.

  11. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    You guys don’t use Nomex?

  12. Adirondack Patriot says:

    On Coast Guard cutters, Nomex is kept in the Damage Control Lockers with firefighting bunker gear and is typically limited to the DC crews. It is also worn by flight quarters crews for helo ops.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Now, folks – the aquaflage pattern of the new NDU is specially designed to make the ship the sailor is on less observable.

    Once they see it, any enemy observer is laughing so hard at the NDU aquaflage uniform that they plain forget to note the type of ship, its heading, its condition, etc . . . .

  14. martinjmpr says:

    So the new Navy blue digital uniform may be useless but it looks badass on a movie poster, which appears to be its primary function – to make sailors look like some kind of super-dooper commando.

    Funny that for almost 20 years all 4 services used the same utility uniform, the BDU. Was it perfect? No, but it was “good enough” for the Army, the Air Force, and the Marines to use as a daily duty uniform and for the Navy to use as a shore duty uniform. Then the Marines just had to get their own high-speed digital cammo (which they copied from the Canadians) and all of a sudden, you just weren’t “cool” if your service didn’t have its own unique uniform. Never mind that the whole purpose of a duty uniform is to be functional and that “standing out” is pretty much the exact opposite of what camouflage is intended to do.

    I used to think the dumbest people in the military were in the Army uniform board but now I’m starting to think the Navy might be giving them a run for their money.

  15. Country Singer says:

    I’ve talked about this before, but in the 90’s we were asking for something like this (but had no idea they wouldn’t be flame retardant). My ship was for some reason the designated dog-and-pony show for DESRON ONE, so anytime someone from way up the chain showed up in San Diego, they would inevitably at some show up getting the grand tour and a Q&A with the crew (CNO, MCPON, SECNAV, etc). What we were asking for was either A) FR Coveralls for the entire crew or B) some type of BDU. Our reasoning was that dungarees were too much of a PITA: the pockets sucked and God forbid you get any paint or POL on them. The camo idea we asked for was to use “urban” coloration; not so that we would look high speed or be invisible…but so specks/drips/splotches of haze and deck gray paint wouldn’t render a sailor’s working uniform into something that made him look like a shitbag if he wore it again…thus lowering the number uniforms he had to replace in a given year.

  16. DaddyBear says:

    Are the new uniforms at least cotton instead of synthetic so they char instead of burn and melt?

  17. Ex-PH2 says:

    I don’t recall those blue slacks we were issued in boot camp ever being specified as fire resistant. They were called dungarees, and were about as much like dungarees as my left foot. They were plain cotton Capri-style slacks. The dungarees that the guys wore were blue denim and cut in what is now commonly called the boot cut — enough room to put them on or take them off while wearing shoes. If you tied a knot in each leg and got them totally wet, you could use them as water wings if you went overboard.
    These ‘aquaflage’ getups — lamer than spavined horse.

  18. Hondo says:

    martinjmpr: the USMC MARPAT was actually based on research conducted by US Army researchers at the US Army’s Natick Labs vice copied from the Canadians. See the MARPAT patent application.

    For what it’s worth: patents owned by any part of the US Government are available for use government-wide. Internal Pentagon politics is the only reason MARPAT is USMC-only today.

    I guess inter-service politics is more important than lives.

  19. NHSparky says:

    PH2–they weren’t. But when I was in Power School, it was “highly advised” (read: you WILL do this) that we get several pairs of FR dungarees before we transferred to prototype–not many Navy Exchanges in the middle of Idaho.

    About the only thing you had to do different than standard clothing is that you had to turn the pants inside out, and you couldn’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets on them (shortened the life of the FR stuff.) I wear FR Carhartt now and it’s still the same way.

  20. CBSenior says:

    As most of us know that type of uniform is meant to be loose fitting to disgues shapes. I wrote to the uniform board about the obivious dangers of having this near machinery. The other half of the uniform and Sailors over-board, is that not just the Blue color blending but the Digi pattern is desinged to confuse night vision that is computer assited. Someone said it right though, it was all about looking cool like the rest of the services. Rememnber this is the same time frame it took alomost 3 yrs to design a PT shirt and shorts.

  21. MCPO NYC USN (Ret.) says:

    As a real/old US Navy BT hole snipe dungarees and coveralls were the way to go. I wanted the lightest clothing possible. If my clothing was caught on something like an angle iron, valve, or rotating machine machinery … I would want it to rip or shred.

    I was not overly worried about fire. Been there and done that. Repair 5: # 1 Nozzleman; On Scene Leader; Locker Leader; and Locker Officer … snuffed a few on my 3 ships. Snipes are confident that they can and will find, fight, and extinguish a fire caused during normal operations … it is the other categories such as Exocet Missles, Mines, Flight Deck Mishaps, Groundings, Collisions at Sea, et al … those are the game changers when it comes to fire, flooding, and/or shipboard conflagration.

    The new uniforms are well … new.

    And as noted above … A clean set of dungarees with ship’s ballcap or a freshly pressed set of cracker jacks, neckerchief tied properly with a penny and the knot’s pussy to the heart, with cover winged and cocked to one side, and three hidden liberty patches … yes .. chicks digged that!

  22. ChopIT says:

    Got to first wear it in Haiti after the earthquake… NOT a great uniform for the heat and humidity in that country (and I’m USED to heat and humidity in South Texas!). Guess the Navy decided that a summer uniform version (like BDUs had) was not an option.

    Although it’s funny when civilians come up and ask what service I’m in while wearing it – (guess they can’t read the left side name tape).

    Plus the Bates boots that are required wear for this uniform SUCK!

  23. AnotherNuke says:


    “NOT a great uniform for the heat and humidity in that country (and I’m USED to heat and humidity in South Texas!). Guess the Navy decided that a summer uniform version (like BDUs had) was not an option.”

    Ugh, no thanks. Have you looked at a seabag list lately? The five uniforms we’re already responsible for maintaining (Coveralls, NWU, NSU, and dress blues and whites) are more than enough for this sailor.

    “Plus the Bates boots that are required wear for this uniform SUCK!”

    I’ve found the boots to be really comfortable, once they were broken in and with a decent pair of insoles. Not terribly durable though.

    Now, the boot socks they issue you? THOSE suck. Replace ASAP.

  24. Crotchity Old Bubblehead says:

    #21, DOUBLE LIKE!!!

    Boils down to the knucklehead in charge of the uniform board was a master chief that was shoe horned into the office while still in uniform until he could go away on retirement. Instead he somehow managed to get hired as the civilian in charge of the whole damn operation and the Navy and our Sailors have been paying the price ever since. Too bad senior leadership fails to see how a butt shark without a clue on how things actually work can negatively impact the whole Navy.

  25. ChopIT says:


    I did not mean to imply I like the NWU – I don’t. Yes I hate how many uniforms I have to maintain, since I have to pay for them out of pocket (no allowance for me anymore).

    The boots fit after all the blisters created in Haiti with custom (and I mean seriously custom) orthotics. I wear two pairs of socks as well (the half size down was too small).

  26. martinjmpr says:

    @23 & 25: Am I the only one who finds it odd that the service where enlisted personnel have the least amount of space to store their gear (I’ve toured a few Navy ships, though not while underway) also has the greatest number of different uniforms they are required to maintain?

    I spent 23 years in the Army and we had TWO basic uniforms: BDUs and the Class A/B (the Class B was just the Class A without the coat, so it really wasn’t a separate uniform.) And honestly, for everybody except those who worked at places like the pentagon, the BDU was the duty uniform for every day wear. I’ll bet I wore my class A or B uniforms maybe once a year, if that, usually for something like a promotion board or unit party or official photograph. Having to maintain so many different uniforms just whittles away a sailor’s (already limited) free time even more.

  27. Hondo says:

    martinjmpr: it’s due to Naval tradition. And IMO Churchill had the right attitude concerning Naval tradition. (smile)

  28. NHSparky says:

    martin–I’ll tell you this much–when you’re on a boat, it’s even less.

    As a nuke, I basically brought the following:
    –2 sets working uniforms
    –3 poopy suits
    –couple pairs of gym shorts
    –t-shirts and socks and skivvies (usually 6-8 pair)
    –couple sets of civilian clothes
    –dress uniform and dixie cups (whites and blues, depending on when we left/where we were going)
    –Personal items (geedunk and soap/towel)
    –boots, dress uniform shoes, sneakers, civvie jacket (used boat jackets instead of working jacket or peacoats.)

    And all that had to fit into a rack pan (less when I was hot racking.)

    I can’t imagine trying to bring an entire seabag plus civvies and personal items along. The COB would have shit a brick.