Should Marines Use Umbrellas? Corps Wants Input on Uniform Changes

President Obama looks to see whether it is still raining as a Marine holds an umbrella for him. (Associated Press/Charles Dharapak)
President Obama looks to see whether it is still raining as a Marine holds an umbrella for him. (Associated Press/Charles Dharapak)

The Marine Corps is seeking input on whether small black umbrellas should be allowed with certain uniforms, potentially ending a long-held tradition of leathernecks toughing out the rain, even in their wool dress uniforms.

The Marine Corps Uniform Board is surveying troops on whether male and female Marines should be allowed to use small black umbrellas with their dress and service uniforms. The board also wants input on whether women should be allowed to wear earrings with some uniforms, and whether junior enlisted Marines should be allowed to wear the same dress waistplate as noncommissioned officers, among other changes.

The results from the survey, which opens today, will be used to inform future uniform recommendations, according to a Marine Corps news release. The service's top officer must ultimately approve any proposed changes.

Female Marines can currently carry black standard or collapsible umbrellas, but men cannot. The umbrella can be carried only in the Marines' left hands, so they can still salute, according to the service's uniform policy, but never while in formation or while wearing utility uniforms.

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The policy was kicked into the spotlight a few years ago when a Marine corporal wearing dress blues held an umbrella for former President Barack Obama while he stood in the rain. Navy and Air Force personnel can carry umbrellas, but male Marines and soldiers cannot.

The board is also seeking input on allowing women to wear silver earrings with the service uniform and could clarify some policies about how female Marines wear their hair. They're currently authorized to wear gold, pearl or diamond earrings with service or dress uniforms.

The board is also considering some policy changes when it comes to hair regulations for women. The changes would clarify what is allowed during the Combat Fitness Test and martial-arts training, and what types of ponytails are OK during physical training.

One proposed change would state that medium or long hair could be worn down in ponytail or braid for organized PT, but that half-ponytails would be OK only if a Marine has short- or medium-length hair. And anytime they're in a combat utility uniform, even if for PT-related events such as the CFT or martial-arts training, normal hair regulations would apply.

Another change under review would allow junior Marines to wear the same gold waistplate featuring the Eagle, Globe and Anchor that noncommissioned officers wear with their dress blues. The uniform board wants input on whether the brass emblem, currently reserved for corporals and sergeants, should be approved for E-1s through E-3s.

Staff noncommissioned officers wear the same waistplate, but an ornamental wreath design surrounds the eagle, globe and anchor for staff sergeants and above.

Lastly, Marines in some special billets could get supplemental allowances for specific uniform items they need for their job. Recruiters and Marine security guards at embassies, for example, might be required to purchase certain shoes or covers. A new policy could help them get extra cash to pay for those items.

Any decisions about uniform proposals will be released in a future Marine Corps-wide administrative message, according to the news release. The survey, which requires a Common Access Card, will be open until April 29 and can be accessed here.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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