Thinking about joining the military? Perhaps you’ve already signed up and are waiting to head to boot camp, or someone close to you has joined the military. Some of the common questions among new recruits and their loved ones relate to military uniforms.
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Knowing the difference between military uniforms, when to wear them and how often they change can be confusing. Each branch has its own uniforms, and each uniform has specific guidelines and regulations that must be followed.
The military wears uniforms to create consistency and a sense of comradery. It also establishes professionalism and makes it easy to identify rank and leadership.
The Army has four uniforms: combat, service, greens and fitness. The Army transitioned their combat uniforms to the Operational Camouflage Pattern in 2019 and has reinstituted the green service uniform for everyday business. The Army greens are being phased in through Oct. 1, 2027, when it will be mandatory for all soldiers.
The Marine Corps has a total of six uniforms but not all Marines are authorized to wear each one. The uniforms are utility, service, blue dress, blue white dress, evening dress and training. Like the Navy, Marines wear dress blues in the fall/winter season and blue white dress in the spring/summer season. For the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform, there are two patterns: woodland camouflage and desert camouflage, which are worn during deployments.
The Air Force has three uniforms: utility, dress and training. For the utility uniforms, the Air Force is currently in a transition from the Airman Battle Uniform to Operational Camouflage Pattern. The Air Force plans to fully transition to the OCPs by April 2021. The color pattern is the same as the Army OCPs: brown, green, tan and cream colors. The dress uniform has a few functions that consist of formal, semi-formal and mess dress.
In basic training, you will receive your initial sets of uniforms. Depending on the branch, service members typically receive three to four sets of camouflage uniforms and at least one set of all other uniforms. Officers purchase their own uniforms and may receive a stipend to help offset the cost.
The military provides an annual clothing replacement allowance for enlisted service members: basic and standard.
The basic clothing replacement allowance is received during the first three years of your service. The first payment is after six months of active-duty service, and the next two payments are received at the end of your anniversary month.
The standard clothing replacement allowance is received annually after three years of active duty service and is also paid at the end of your anniversary month. Clothing allowances are determined by each branch.
It is your responsibility to maintain your uniforms properly and make sure they’re in regulation throughout the year. However, your annual clothing allowance can be used to pay for uniform repairs or “cosmetic fixes.” Setting aside some of this allowance will allow you to easily cover unexpected costs to keep your uniform in good shape.
What uniform you should wear on any given day is usually determined by your chain of command. Special occasions and the weather can also determine what uniform you should wear. For example, service members wear a variation of the dress uniform at military balls or service uniform for a promotion ceremony.
To learn more about military uniforms, check out Military Insignia: What Are Those Stripes and Bars.