Even though the U.S. Navy is downsizing, it is still trying hard to keep the people it does want happy, and in the navy. To that end, the navy ran a web based survey last year, to find out what sailors liked, and didnt like, about their uniforms. Some 43,000 sailors took part, and next month the navy is making the first of many changes in uniform related issues. Among the changes;
* Sailors can now carry gym bags, backpacks, computer bags and briefcases strapped over the left shoulder while in service or working uniforms. Currently, the regulations only allow sailors to carry them in their left hand (so the right hand is free to salute any officers they come across). Also, a backpack can be worn over both shoulders when sailors are in the working uniform. The new rules require that all bags must conceal their contents and be either black or navy blue. No ornamentation on the bags is allowed (except for manufacturer's logos, as long as the logos are small and do not distract from the uniform). Any bag used while a sailor is in dress uniform would still have to be carried in the left hand.
* Female sailors are no longer required to carry only official navy purses (as sold in Navy uniform stores.) They can carry any purse as long as it plain black, brown or white natural grain leather or synthetic leather, and rectangular in shape. Dimensions would have to be 71/z to 12 inches in width, 51/2 to 8 inches in height and 2 to 31/2 inches deep. No visible ornamentation, decorative stitching, large embossed designs, or large manufacturer's logo is allowed. The `closure must be brassplated or gold-colored. A purse flap closure must be a clasp, with no buckles, zippers or string ties, and the strap would have to be of the same material as the purse.
* The new regulations spell out when and where sailors can wear pagers, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and Blackberrys while in uniform. These devices could be worn by sailors and officers in uniform, but only one at a time and only if they are issued for official business. For the working and service uniforms, the device could be worn on the belt on either side but behind the elbow so as not to be visible from the front. For service dress uniforms and above, the devices should not be visible or cause protrusions or bulges and should not interfere with saluting. The use of hands-free devices are required when entering, departing and while driving on military and government installations.
* Skirts are optional for female sailors. This applies to both service and dress uniforms.
There are several other changes involving badges. In addition, the survey persuaded the navy to redesign several parts of existing uniforms Those ideas are being developed and tested.