June 24, 2018
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Since when does the military care about fashion?

Sarah Smiley
By Sarah Smiley

I’ve been a Navy dependent a long time — since I was born, in fact. In the past 36 years, I’ve never known the military to care about fashion. (Don’t like your military ID card photo? Too bad. “Next in line, please.”) I’ve also never known the military to care about what’s “comfortable.” (I saw my husband’s bunk on the aircraft carrier.) Mostly, however, I’ve never known the military to answer to whining. (I’ve tried: “But I’m pregnant! Does he really have to leave?”)

So when someone recently pointed me to an August 2012 Navy Times article about a possible change to the Navy’s Working Uniform, I was shocked. I didn’t believe it.

“But they just got those three years ago,” I said. “No way.”

Then I looked it up myself.

“Top-Level Talks Consider Eliminating Blue NWUs,” the title reads.

The blue Navy Working Uniform, or NWU, which is patterned with blue digital camouflage, or “aquaflage,” has been a joke since 2009. The first time my husband came home wearing it, I asked, “Who did you make angry?”

I mean, Dustin is a pilot; did the Navy want him to blend into the water? Or is there some kind of blue jungle I forgot to study in geography class?

The aquaflage is not attractive. While almost any Navy pilot looks handsome in his khaki uniform (the same thing is true of cowboys — they all look cute in a hat), I’ve yet to see anyone who looks good in the blue NWU.

But what do I know about military uniforms? The Navy doesn’t care about what “looks good,” right?

The Navy spends a lot of time researching uniform changes before making a decision, right?

The Navy stands by their decision in order to save military members the expense of buying more new uniforms.

Right? Apparently not.

According to the Navy Times article, top-level officials might have the blue NWUs on the chopping block, because — get this — people don’t like them. The uniforms are hot and uncomfortable, and people make fun of them. They call it the “blueberry” uniform.

Wait, since when did the military care about what people don’t like?

This puts a whole new spin on my view of the military. Now they care about fashion? Now they care about what members like and don’t like? Now they care about what’s comfortable?

Well, then, I’ve got some other things to take up with the military:

Yearlong deployments: Really, really uncomfortable

I don’t like these. Most people agree. It stinks not having your spouse home for Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries, and it’s hard to manage the kids and all their after-school activities with just one parent at home to drive them. How can I be at two Little League games at once?

Moving every three years: Really inconvenient and expensive

Who can own a home and build equity in it — in this market, especially — when they have to sell again in a few years? Every time the military has transferred our family, it has been a losing proposition for us. We’ve bought and sold more houses than most people will in their entire lifetimes. We’ve lost furniture in cross-country moves, and I can’t be sure that all my sons’ school records have followed us from school-to-school. Can’t we just stay in one place?

The officer-enlisted thing: Uncomfortable and embarrassing

I understand why the military has rules against fraternization, but if I hit it off with an enlisted person’s wife, and we can’t do couples things because of our husbands, well, that just makes life really frustrating and confusing. I hate that moment when both parties realize, we probably can’t be friends. Not really close friends, at least. What a bunch of wasted opportunities.

Watch, duty and work-ups: So annoying

The military has a clever way of keeping our loved ones busier than we think they will be. Just when you think he will have a weekend at home, he calls to say, “Actually, I have watch this weekend.”

Just when you’ve counted the days you have left before a deployment, he says, “Oh, but I’ll be away for a month on work-ups before I go.”

Just when you think he’s coming home for dinner, he calls and says, “I have duty.”

For all its regimentation and routine, the military throws us plenty of curveballs with “surprise” watch, duty and work-ups.

Military health care: Too many hoops

I just want to see the doctor I want to see. I don’t want to call first and make sure the military approves. If I want to see a therapist or counselor, I don’t want the military to “evaluate” me beforehand. When I find a doctor I like, I want to keep her for years to come.

And last, for what it’s worth, the Marine Corps’s uniforms look way better than the Navy’s, so maybe we should just switch them all.

Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at www.Facebook.com/Sarah.is.Smiley.

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