Navy clothing designer Donna Zlotnick, left, checks Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly Sanchious' skirt for proper fit during Friday’s service uniform distribution at Yokosuka Naval Base.

Navy clothing designer Donna Zlotnick, left, checks Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly Sanchious' skirt for proper fit during Friday’s service uniform distribution at Yokosuka Naval Base. (Jim O'Donnell / S&S)

Click hereto see the prosposed Navy uniform designs

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — For many servicemembers, little inspires more dread than the voice of a superior officer beckoning them to stand “front and center” for a lecture on uniform standards.

But deviating from those standards is part of the job until later this year for 100 Yokosuka sailors — from Commander Fleet Activities Japan and Commander Naval Forces Japan — who are wear-testing four new uniforms for the chief of Naval Operations’ Task Force Uniform initiative.

Along with other volunteers from Naval bases worldwide, the Yokosuka sailors will report their likes, dislikes or comments they get from fellow sailors about the uniforms, according to Chief Petty Officer Deborah Simmons, a military representative for the task force.

Simmons was at Yokosuka’s Fleet Recreation Center on Friday morning, with members of the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility, to distribute the uniforms for the six-month test period.

The Navy is testing two variants: one service and one working uniform. Yokosuka is testing the service variant, while Atsugi Naval Air Facility is testing the working variant, a blue and gray camouflage uniform sailors received Tuesday.

Last week’s uniform distributions were part of a process that began more than a year ago in response to concerns from sailors about uniform regulations and requirements, a Navy news release stated. In 2003, a survey of more than 40,000 Navy personnel found that sailors E-6 and below were the Navy group least satisfied with their current service uniforms. Some reasons given for the dissatisfaction included perceived impracticality of white uniforms, unflattering and non-functional designs, unprofessional appearance in comparison to other services and requirements for seasonal change.

The current Navy service uniforms for sailors E-6 and below feature an all-white, short-sleeved shirt worn during summer months and an all-black, long-sleeved shirt for winter. The test uniforms the Yokosuka sailors received to wear instead are designed to be worn year-round.

The sailors received four uniform sets, designated A, B, C and D. Shirts in each set are either khaki or gray, and have rank insignia either sewn on or pinned to the collar. Men received four pairs of navy-blue pants, while women received two pairs of pants and two skirts.Wear-test participants also received an identification card to be carried whenever they are in the new uniforms as proof they are participating in the task force tests and a guide with photos and descriptions of how the variables may be put together. The guide gives the sailors specific instructions on care and contains a schedule of which uniform set to wear each day, said Donna Zlotnick, a senior clothing designer at the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility.

“The user guide gives them everything from uniform configurations to pictures on how the uniforms look,” Zlotnick said. The schedule — in calendar form — helps ensure the sets get even wear, she said.

“I personally think it is an exciting time,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Greg Vidaurri, a Navy Career Counselor and Yokosuka’s point man for the task force. “We have about 229 years of history in our uniforms right now,” and a multitude of uniforms, he said. “By having one service uniform you can wear year-round, I think it will cut down on space, time and maintenance.”

He said he was glad the sailors will be involved with the uniform decision.

“I think it’s nice that our sailors have a voice in what their uniforms are going to be, instead of someone just telling them ‘this is what you are wearing,’” he said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Gabriel Batiancila, one of the wear-testers, also is happy sailors are getting input.

On first impression, he said he likes the new uniforms because he feels they’re more professional. As for color preference between the gray and khaki shirts, he said: “I think the gray looks great, but I like them both. I am looking forward to the day when we actually walk around and wear this thing.”

Designer Zlotnick predicted that most of the participating Yokosuka sailors would be wearing the test uniforms by the end of the month.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Tomika Halloway said she’s looking forward to wearing her test sets, adding that she especially likes that the new female overblouse is not tucked in.

“The uniforms are really nice, I feel more feminine in them [not]having to worry about tucking your shirt in,” she said. Her favorite variation, she added, is the khaki shirt with collar insignia. “You don’t have to worry about changing patches every time you advance,” said Halloway. “You can just change collar devices, it’s more convenient.”

The test uniforms “fit wonderfully and they’re comfortable,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Shelly Griffith. “I think it’s going to be a lot easier to take care of them.”

She said she wouldn’t miss the old uniforms.

“The whites are see-through, the blues fade out, and we have a lot more uniform items that you have to constantly replace, giving junior personnel a lot of expenses that they really don’t need to incur,” she said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Linda Wood said her preference lies with the “B” and “C” uniform sets — the ones requiring pants instead of skirts.

“I have always favored the pants (with the current uniform),” she said. “It’s going to be different wearing the skirts, because [now] skirts are optional … but it will put me into the skirts now. Every other day, I’ll be in a skirt, so that should be different. But I am still looking forward to it.”

Task Force Uniform representative Simmons dismisses criticism that the new service uniforms look too much like the Marine Corps uniform or too much like the current utility uniform.

“Don’t pre-judge the uniform until you see the sailors in them,” she advised. “See the people in them, talk to them, see how they feel.”

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