The Navy has authorized a range of new clothing items, including two-piece swimsuits for male and female sailors, special pins to designate survivors and next-of-kin of fallen troops, and a thermal neck scarf for cold weather.
In a Navy administrative message Monday, officials announced that sailors have the option of wearing two pieces for their semi-annual physical readiness test, or PRT. But don't show up in a bikini; Navy officials made clear that this regulation change is for sailors who want more coverage, not less.
Full torso coverage is still required for all swimsuits worn. The new guidance makes it possible for sailors to add a pair of swim shorts to a one-piece, or a rash-guard top to swim shorts based on preference or religious conviction. Also authorized is full-body swimwear, like the "burkini" wetsuit-style option popular with Muslim women.
Robert Carroll, the head of the Navy's Uniform Matters Office, told Military.com that the change is the result of feedback from the fleet, coupled with the fact that existing swimwear guidance was ambiguous.
"We have sailors who have religious convictions, or religious concerns or beliefs," he said. "Then you have people who just prefer a different level of modesty."
The change will also help those, he said, who just want a greater level of warmth in the water.
Swimming is an optional alternative to running in the Navy's current PRT.
Also newly authorized are special lapel pins, approved by Congress, as official designation for surviving family members of service members. The Gold Star Lapel Button, designed and created in 1947, is awarded by the government to surviving families of service members who were killed in action. The closely related Next of Kin Deceased Personnel Lapel Button was approved in 1973, specifically for family members of fallen service members from the Army Reserve or Army National Guard. The small round pins feature a gold star at the center.
Navy guidance specifies that these pins are approved only for optional wear with the service's most formal uniforms: service dress and full dress.
Carroll said the decision to authorize the buttons followed a number of requests from the fleet.
Also approved for wear is a black neck gaiter, authorized during "extreme cold weather conditions," according to Navy guidance. Sailors must procure their own all-black gaiters, and the item is authorized only with the cold-weather parka, Navy working uniform type II/III parka, pea coat, reefer and all-weather coat. The guidance comes out just ahead of the Army-Navy game this weekend. However, conditions at the U.S. Naval Academy are expected to be relatively balmy, at a rainy 53 degrees Fahrenheit, and likely do not merit the gaiter.
When to wear the gaiter is a decision reserved for Navy regional commanders, Carroll said, who will promulgate the policy for their region.
Finally, the Navy is authorizing a new chief warrant officer insignia for acoustic technicians, which is approved for wear by all warrants with a 728X designator. The service redesignated submarine electronics technicians as acoustic technicians in 2017, reopening the field, which had been closed since 2011. The electronics technician insignia had depicted a helium atom.
Carroll said the new insignia will be a throwback to earlier Navy acoustic ratings, and feature a globe with a sea horse in the center and a trident emerging from it.
"They're pretty excited about it," Carroll said of the acoustic technician community.
In addition to new uniform items, the Navy announced it is redesigning two current items to improve the design. The summer white/service dress white maternity shirt will undergo redesign "to enhance appearance and functionality when worn," officials said.
The new shirt, once complete, will include princess seams for fit, adjustable side tabs with three buttons, epaulettes and two hidden pockets in the side seams. The new shirt will also look more like the Navy's service khaki and service uniform maternity shirts, with chest pockets removed. Additional details, including a timeline for the shirt's release, will be announced in a future message, officials said.
Also being redesigned is the black fleece liner for the Navy Working Uniform and cold-weather parka. Updates will include outer fabric that is resistant to rain and wind, an attached rank tab and side pockets with zip closures.
Officials continue to test the I-Boot 5, a next-generation work boot that improves on previous designs.
"The evaluation will continue through the end of calendar year 2019 to facilitate wear during cold weather conditions," officials said in a release. "The completion of the I-Boot 5 evaluation, participant survey and final report to Navy leadership with recommendation is expected to occur by the first quarter of calendar year 2020."
As for other recently rolled-out uniform items, Navy officials say previously announced mandatory uniform possession and wear dates have not changed.
Enlisted women in ranks E-1 to E-6 must adopt the "Crackerjacks" jumper-style service dress blue with white "Dixie cup" hat by Jan. 31, 2020; female officers and chief petty officers must own the choker-style service dress white coat by the same date; enlisted sailors E-1 through E-6 must have the service dress white with blue piping by Oct. 31, 2021; and all sailors must own the new Navy fitness suit by Sept. 30, 2021. The black cold-weather parka is also designated for mandatory possession by April 30, 2021, officials said.