Leadership: July 4, 2004


American military commanders, at least the ones back in the United States, are cracking down on how U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Central Asia, dress down, while off duty. Orders have gone out to ditch the tank tops, flip flops, short shorts and spandex. Americans in uniform have always been noted for adopting less military, and more informal clothing the farther away they get from the Pentagon. Alas, the proliferation of photojournalists, and the ability to immediately send images in via satellite, from anywhere in the world, has brought these casually dressed G.I.s to the attention of the well dressed and carefully groomed brass back in Washington. Actually, this isnt the first time this sort of thing has happened. In late 2001, American Special Forces in Afghanistan, were caught making war while sporting beards and dressed like the locals. This would not do, even if it was a life saving measure (hostile Afghans were more likely to shoot at a foreigner than another Afghan.) The well protected, and well dressed, Pentagon brass ordered the Special Forces operators to get shaved and into uniform. There were said to be a few early retirements because of that, which the shave and change clothes order seen by some troopers as a last straw. The latest, look sharp order wont last long. They never do. Give it a year or two, and the troops will be dressing down to a tolerable level once more. Note that these casually dressed service folk were not out giving the locals an embarrassing view of casual American dress. That's because for over a decade, U.S. troops have been basically confined to their overseas bases. When they dress down, they only ones that see it are other Americans, and any locals that work on the base. The local commanders arent complaining, as they realize that the relaxed dress codes are good for morale. But for a well pressed officer back in the Pentagon, that sort of creature comfort, even if its in the midst of a dusty Afghan base, is offensive and must be corrected. 


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