Boonie Caps Permitted for Soldiers at Fort Bliss But Remain Unauthorized for Rest of Army Bases

Spc. Christian Sutton takes photos with 1st Armored Division's leadership
Spc. Christian Sutton (center) takes photos with the 1st Armored Division's senior leadership showing off the boonie caps. (Courtesy of Spc. Christian Sutton)

In what could be the most significant move on uniforms since black socks for physical training uniforms, the Army's Fort Bliss in Texas approved the wear of the boonie cap on the installation.

The policy -- likely celebrated by junior enlisted there to the chagrin of soldiers elsewhere -- was approved in October, but the move wasn't widely publicized until last week on the Army Reddit forum.

The boonie hat, or "sun hat," is mostly intended to be worn in the field. That headgear is light, better protects the soldier from the sun, is breathable and camouflage can easily be added in tactical environments. The hat gained fame during the Vietnam War, particularly becoming an icon of special operations units at the time. Troops also commonly wore it in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The default headgear everywhere else in the Army is the so-called patrol cap, which offers relatively little utility and has a lot of excess fabric on the inside, making it difficult to dry and uncomfortable in hot weather. Soldiers often cut out the interior fabric to make the patrol cap slightly more breathable.

Meanwhile, the Air Force moved to tactical caps, essentially camouflage baseball caps, for its operational camouflage pattern uniforms in 2021, according to a release. The Navy, in February, said it will allow female sailors to begin wearing the combination cover again, also known as the "bucket cover," a hat that was retired by former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to make uniforms more unisex after use since World War II.

The last major move on Army headgear was in 2011 when soldiers started wearing patrol caps by default in lieu of black berets, though the berets are still worn during formal events. The service also introduced brown berets for Security Force Assistance Brigades, or SFABs, in 2011.

Fort Bliss, home of the 1st Armored Division, is located near El Paso, nicknamed "Sun City," which is known for its blistering heat. On average, the area gets 297 days of sunshine annually, according to local data.

The new rule was approved by Maj. Gen. James Isenhower III, commander of the division, on Oct. 31.

Below are the rules for wearing the boonie cap at Fort Bliss, most being standard guidance from Army uniform policy:

  • Only Organizational Clothing and Military Equipment, OCIE, and OCIE-issued sun hats are authorized for wear. Commercial and lookalike hats are not permitted.
  • The hat is not to be worn in formation unless all personnel are wearing the sun hat.
  • The hat can be worn anywhere on the Fort Bliss installation except indoors.
  • The hat is authorized for wear by all Fort Bliss permanent party members and those assigned to Fort Bliss on temporary status, including visitors.
  • Sun hats can be the primary headgear during unit outdoor ceremonies if all personnel wear them; no combination of sun hats and patrol caps is allowed.
  • Temperature is not a determining factor in wearing the sun hat.
  • Personnel wear will be worn on top of the head so that the web band creates a straight line around the head and parallel to the ground.
  • The sun hat is to be worn so that no hair is visible on the forehead beneath the hat.
  • The drawstring can be worn under the chin, drawn snugly using the cord fastener to the bottom of the chin, around the back of the head and neck, and drawn snugly to the back or tucked inside of the hat.
  • The sun hat will not be worn rolled, formed, shaped, blocked or with an upturned brim.
  • Rank insignia, at minimum, must be pinned on or sewn on. The rank is worn centered on the front of the hat, left to right, and top and bottom.
  • Nametape will not be sewn on the sun hat.

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