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Does the Military Care About Fashion?

Navy Working Uniform

The first time my husband came home wearing NWU (Navy Working Uniform) “aquaflage,” I asked, "Who did you make angry?"

I mean, Dustin is a pilot. Did the Navy want him to wear the digital blue camouflage so he could blend into the water? 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 its decision in order to save military members the expense of buying more new uniforms, right?

Apparently not.

Top-level officials might have the blue NWUs on the chopping block, because -- get this -- people don't like them. The uniforms are hot, uncomfortable, and, perhaps, flammable. OK, maybe the fire safety issue is the biggie, but also, people make fun of them. They call it the "blueberry" uniform.

Wait ... since when did the military care about what people don't like? If they have decided to care about fashion and comfort and preferences, I have 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 that 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 Healthcare: 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.

Uniforms: Not quite hot enough.

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

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Navy wife Sarah Smiley is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a Military Wife (2005) and I'm Just Saying (2008). She has been featured in the New York Times and Newsweek, and on Nightline, The Early Show, CNN, Fox News and other local and national news outlets. Her liferights were optioned by Kelsey Grammer's company, Grammnet, and Paramount Television to be made into a half-hour sitcom. Visit for more details. To contact Sarah, you can also visit her Facebook page.

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