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Army poised to allow rolled sleeves for soldiers

By DAN LAMOTHE | The Washington Post | Published: June 28, 2016

The practice was banned for years. Then there was a pilot program. The results were studied closely. And on Tuesday, the Army is expected to announce its big decision: Rolled sleeves on camouflage uniforms are now completely acceptable.

The move would give a stiff-arm to recent history, in which the Army was the only Pentagon service that did not allow rolled sleeves, even in the hot summer months associated with serving at places such as Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Benning, Georgia.

Army Sgt. Major Daniel Dailey said in an interview Tuesday that he expected Gen. Mark Milley, the Army's top officer, to sign off on the specifics within hours. There's little doubt which way the service is going: A majority of soldiers have greeted the change with cheers, and service leaders appear to be receptive to that.

"When you can change thing that doesn't break good order and discipline and that soldiers like, let's do it," Dailey said. "We're the only service that doesn't do it, and we used to. So it's not one of those things that if we do, we can't survive. Because we've done it before and we know it's not going to hurt anybody."

That perspective is new. Dailey said in an Army Times article published in February that there was no need to allow rolled sleeves, saying doing so was "not consistent with a neat appearance." His predecessor, then-Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler, also said several times that he was against it.

Milley announced on June 16 a 10-day pilot program at Fort Hood and seemed open then to making the change permanent. Soldiers wore rolled sleeves with a previous camouflage uniform, the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) until it was phased out in 2005, and there are numerous photographs from World War II and Vietnam that show soldiers with their sleeves rolled.

The decision comes less than a year after Milley took over as Army chief and Dailey took over as his top enlisted adviser. Although it has no effect on operations, it's the kind of cultural change that can endear senior leaders to their troops.

But the decision will not be popular with all soldiers. Some have observed that the Army's sleeves, which include patches and pockets with Velcro, could be difficult to roll and uncomfortable to wear.

One question that remained Tuesday morning is whether sleeves will be rolled so that the camouflage shows on the roll. That, too, has generated a spirited debate, both because the Marines already roll their sleeves in and the Army has previously rolled their sleeves out.

Dailey said he kept his own opinions to himself during polling because he did not want to influence the results. But like the majority of the Army, he said, he favored rolling with camouflage out.

"I'm rooting for my camo out folks," he said.

The issue has caused friction in the Marine Corps previously. In 2011, Commandant Gen. James F. Amos banned the rolling of sleeves, causing an outcry among many rank-and-file Marines who considered it a time-honored tradition. He reversed course in 2014, saying he realized how important it was to his troops.

Army Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey demonstrates the "sleeves out" roll.
U.S. ARMY

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