FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- Soldiers usually don't get a say in Army-wide decisions.
So it felt good, several said Wednesday morning, to get to vote on one -- how the next version of the Army's physical fitness uniform should look.
"It brings us into the process," said Sgt. 1st Class Reginald Adams.
Soldiers and spouses milled around a common area of the Mini Mall where other soldiers modeled the possible versions of the updated exercise outfit. They varied mostly in color -- combinations of black, gray and Army yellow -- and a couple of design elements -- fat vs. skinny trim and the word "ARMY" spelled out in block print vs. an emblem.
But it was enough.
"I'm really feeling the black and gray," said Adams, who was modeling a black track-suit-style uniform with yellow piping.
He nixed both versions of the yellow T-shirt -- too much of a reminder of the infamous and ill-fitting "banana suit" physical fitness uniform from a couple of decades ago.
Kathleen Briggs, who was taking pictures of the soldiers modeling the different exercise uniforms, also was thumbs down on the yellow options.
"It looks like a bumblebee," said Briggs, who was getting the pictures for her soldier husband, who hadn't been able to get to the Mini Mall but wanted to see how the uniforms looked on people.
Victoria Jumper, an E-5, was leaning toward the yellow on the theory that it would make its wearers more visible when they're running on road shoulders.
Several soldiers said they approve of other changes to the uniform. It doesn't bind at the neck, wrist or ankles, Adams said. The fabric is lighter, and there's no big air-blocking patch on the back. The jacket has a drawstring in place of the current elasticized waist that soldiers said can ride up during exercise.
Adams and others said the new shorts don't ride up the way the existing uniform shorts do. And the liner of the new shorts comes with not one small key pocket but two roomier ones, for a car key with a fob and an ID card. Best of all, the liner isn't underwearish mesh -- a feature of the current shorts that can leave too little to the imagination at times. The new liner is long and snug and was designed with modesty in mind.
"It'd be nice to wear something that didn't feel like swim trunks," said Spc. Aaron Sawyer.
Fort Bragg was the first stop of three as the Army showcases the different possible variations to the fitness uniform. The uniforms go next to Fort Hood in Texas, then to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Voting on the designs opened Tuesday and will go through Oct. 29.
Then ... it'll be a while. The votes will be tabulated, then the uniforms will be tested in various environments. A spokeswoman said they may go into official use in early 2014.