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Navy's 'Blueberries' Uniform on the Way Out, Starting Next Month

Navy Working Uniform Type I (U.S. Navy photo/ Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ramon G. Go)
Navy Working Uniform Type I (U.S. Navy photo/ Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ramon G. Go)

The era of the Navy's much-reviled blue digital camouflage work uniform is rapidly drawing to a close.

Beginning Oct. 1, new recruits, officer candidates, and sailors assigned to Navy Region Southwest will be assigned the Navy Working Uniform Type III.

The forest-green digital camouflage uniform was developed by Naval Special Warfare Command as a tactical uniform and has been used by riverines and other expeditionary sailors.

The full transition to the new green working uniform will take 24 months, ending Sept. 30, 2019, according to a Navy administrative message released at the end of August.

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The Navy first announced that it was phasing out its blue digital camouflage in August 2016, with leadership saying the move was in response to sailors' feedback.

"As [Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson] and I travel to see sailors deployed around the world, one of the issues they consistently want to talk about are uniforms," then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement at the time.

"They want uniforms that are comfortable, lightweight, breathable ... and they want fewer of them," he said. "We have heard the feedback and we are acting on it. As a direct result of Sailors' input, effective Oct. 1, we will transition from the NWU Type I to the NWU Type III as our primary shore working uniform."

The uniform, first introduced in 2009, became the butt of many jokes, earning the nickname "aquaflage," as it would camouflage a sailor only if he or she fell overboard underway.

Beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2019, sailors will be able to wear either the blue Navy Working Uniform Type 1 or the new NWU Type III, at the discretion of the unit commanding officer.

After that period, the NWU Type III will become the primary shore working uniform for sailors everywhere.

The uniform is already for sale at a few locations: Navy Exchange Uniform Centers in Newport, Rhode Island, and Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and at Navy bases in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.

Every few months, the Navy will begin issuing the uniform to sailors in a different geographic region, working from Navy Region Southwest to Southeast and then to the Mid-Atlantic and Washington, D.C., before hitting Navy Region Northwest, Japan and the Pacific.

Enlisted sailors will see a bump in their clothing allowance to cover the new uniform beginning Oct. 1 and expanding in 2018 and 2019, officials said.

Meanwhile, the service is still determining what boots will be worn with the new uniform in the future.

"As part of an ongoing boot study, the Navy is currently conducting a 3-month boot wear test encompassing daily wear by 350 Sailors assigned to afloat units and shore installations," officials said in the Navy message.

"The primary objective of the study is to identify and select a suitable replacement for the current black Navy-issue boot, that will meet or exceed the current boot protection requirements of the Navy and that will provide improved comfort, fit and durability," it said.

That test is set to be complete, with a report to leadership, by the end of this year.

If a replacement boot is chosen, it will be added to the seabag by the end of fiscal 2019 to coincide with the mandatory wear date for the new uniform.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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