Murphy's Law: September 10, 2001

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Uniforms make the man, or does it? One 20th century uniform innovation was the introduction of camouflage pattern field uniforms. First adopted by some units in World War II, they are now very common, although not universal. But because the field uniform also doubles as the work uniform, this sometimes creates odd situations. The U.S. air force has adopted the camouflage field uniform as it's standard work uniform. Now this sort of makes sense, as the largest job category in the air force is security troops. These are the folks that guard air bases and prevent anyone from inflicting mischief on all those expensive aircraft. Air force security forces are basically light infantry. And some of them actually operate in the bush when they patrol the outer perimeter of air bases in remote locations. But the vast majority of air force personnel wearing this camouflage uniform work in offices or industrial settings (hangers and workshops.) OK, makes sense, Why have two work uniforms just because it looks a little odd to see all those offices full of people in camouflage garb. But you will occasionally see some really jarring sites. At some U.S. Air Force schools where administrative staff are changed, you will see dozens of air force troops marching in formation, wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying identical briefcases. But it can get stranger than that. The U.S. Marine Corps has a higher proportion of personnel who actually make use of their camouflage uniforms, but they also have thousands of woman marines working in administrative jobs. These women also wear camouflage uniforms. But women, more so than men, like to enhance their appearance with makeup and accessories (jewelry.) This has long been a contentious issue in the marines and earlier this year the Marine Uniform Board studied the issue and decreed that you could not wear jewelry, nail polish or lipstick with the field (camouflage) uniform. Nor could you carry a purse or umbrella. Woman marines began barraging the uniform board with indignant emails over this policy. Faced with a possible public relations debacle, the Uniform Board relented and allowed lipstick, but only in shades of red. This issue may not rest there, as many women are still upset that they cannot wear nail polish or accessorize just a little when wearing their field uniform. We probably have not heard the last of this issue.

 


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