MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines in garrison are now required to wear the seasonal service uniform each Friday.
Last December, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos directed the wear of the uniform starting Jan. 4. Exceptions are given for those training and missions requiring other uniforms.
Many Marines who served prior to the war in Iraq are familiar with the wear of service uniforms on Friday. Battalion and base commanders often directed weekly wear of the service uniform until increased combat operations and pre-deployment training made the wear of combat utilities more practical.
When Sgt. Alex Sanchez entered the Marine Corps in 2003 as an amphibious assault vehicle mechanic, his commander directed Marines to wear the service uniform every other Friday, he said. Marines would arrive in khaki shirts and olive green trousers, and if they needed to work on vehicles, they would change into coveralls.
Four years later, Sanchez moved into the infantry field as a reconnaissance man with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. Frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in heavy training schedules and more frequent wear of the combat utility uniform. Even Marines on guard duty began wearing combat utilities instead of the service uniform, said Sanchez, a native of Sugar Land, Texas.
“Once the war really kicked off, it didn’t really happen anymore,” Sanchez said.
When the war in Afghanistan began winding down, Marines returned to the former policy and started implementing service uniform wear throughout the division. Last fall, the 1st Marine Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, directed the wear of the service uniform for all guard duties and ceremonies. However, many battalions had already adopted a similar policy.
The Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, wore the service uniform each Friday for one year before the CMC directive was given. There was no impact on the battalion, said Sgt. Maj. Kent D. Cartmill, the sergeant major of 2nd Bn., 1st Marines.
The service uniform requires special attention to minute details, such as the placement of ribbons, the length of the belt, trouser length, creases and cleanliness. It takes considerably more time to prepare than the combat utility uniform. Marines must also maintain the form fitting shirts and trousers.
“There will obviously be some snap-in period, but once everyone is used to it then it will be the normal routine,” said Cartmill, a native of Garden City, Kan. “Marines will have to take a vested interest in their uniforms as far as serviceability, fit, and cleanliness.”
Noncommissioned officers have the benefit of attending professional military education courses, which place particular emphasis on uniform regulations and inspection procedures. Sanchez said corporals and sergeants who attended PME have shown more success with training junior Marines, who have less experience wearing the service uniform.
While the service uniform takes much effort to wear, the biggest complaint among junior Marines is the uniform is uncomfortable, Sanchez said. However, there are many benefits to wearing the uniform, as it develops attention to detail among the Marines. For reconnaissance men, strict discipline is crucial to success in combat.
“You’re going out deep behind enemy lines so you gotta have attention to detail on a lot of things,” Sanchez said. “It’s our job in general. It’s just what we do. So I see how it can benefit us just by wearing the uniform.”