Five Sailors assigned to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), volunteered to participate in a uniform wear test for a two-piece flame resistant organizational clothing variant since May 23.
Yeoman 1st Class Essence Toney, Yeoman 1st Class Abigail Lispier, Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Jessica Riley, Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Idamae Brown and Yeoman 2nd Class Carmina Flores agreed to support the four-month testing phase initiated by U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command, May 13.
“Wear tests are of the utmost importance to introducing new clothing to the fleet. We need feedback from Sailors to ensure what we ultimately deliver is safe, functional, high-quality, professional looking and comfortable,” said Capt. Mark Runstrom, director USFF fleet supply operations and services. “From the onset, we’ve wanted this effort to be Sailor-driven and will rely heavily on Sailor input to make final design recommendations to Navy leadership.”
Testers, who were asked to volunteer, were given four different variations of the uniforms (Class A, B, C, and D) along with rules that they have to follow. Some of the rules are that they are not allowed to interchange the uniforms, such as wearing the pants from Class A and the top from Class C, they have to keep a log book, and they are not allowed to use starch due to the flame resistance material, they cannot use fabric softener, and they are asked to refrain from dry cleaning them, because shipboard Sailors will not have that option.
“I found ironing to be a challenge when preparing the type A uniform for wear,” said Flores. “The wrinkles were very difficult to get out initially, so it makes maintenance a challenge compared to uniforms already in rotation.”
“When I first saw the uniform, I didn’t like it at all, especially the light blue [top] dark pants,” said Toney. “But with any change to our uniforms, it will take time to adjust and identify whether the functionality of the design is ideal for today’s Sailor and the working environment we operate in.”
The reviews and feedback from Sailors is instrumental in assessing functionality and ultimately influencing the implementation of recommended uniform changes according to NAVCENT Staff Command Master Chief Brian J. McDonough.
“This is really just the first phase in the wear test of these new fire-resistant shipboard working uniforms,” said McDonough. “One of the goals is to give Sailors more flexibility when deblousing while doing dirty work or working in hot spaces vice rolling down the top of the coveralls, which could pose safety hazards.
McDonough also stressed this is simply a test phase to gain feedback.
“With the fire-resistant variants, while they hit the mark in being fire-resistant, they haven’t been hitting the mark in being comfortable or being durable,” said McDonough. “In a lot of instances the material was too heavy, and it didn’t really provide the appropriate amount of cooling for the Sailor as well.”
More than 300 Sailors at 34 afloat and operational shore commands in the U.S. and overseas will participate in the wear test. The trial period will run until September 2018 to determine if the two-piece variant will support all of the requirements for operational units.