Reservist

Uniform 2019

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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The Dixie cup was made from sail canvas and doubled as a flotation device, the black neckerchief could be used as a battle dressing in emergencies, and the bell- bottoms could be quickly removed and used to support a sailor who fell overboard. Chief petty officers were also authorized to wear the same khaki uniform as officers, and being advanced to senior enlisted ranks had the additional prestige of trading in either the "Donald Duck" style cover or the enlisted "flat hat" for today's more- recognizable combination cover. "It was pretty exciting to be promoted to chief," said retired Master Chief Petty Officer Buck Ward, who'd enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1967, just after the Coast Guard was transferred from the Department of Treasury to the Department of Transportation. According to Ward, newly promoted chiefs weren't just making the rank. "You were 'making the hat,'" said Ward, "and having those khakis on, that was a big deal." Uniform items could be purchased from about a dozen Uniform Distribution Centers, and they were of mixed quality. Unfortunately, many of the enlisted uniforms were purchased in local stores, which, ironically, left much to be desired in the way of uniformity. "The shirts were so cheap they sometimes caught fire," said Ward. "But you could get Seafarers [pants] for like $4 a pair; that was a lot of money then. I loved those pants, they fit just perfect. I never felt better than when I was wearing those Seafarers. And the crackerjacks, you ironed them inside out, pressed the seams flat. That makes them bell when you turn them back right side out. And, if you were cool, you wore Wellington boots." Ward and his shipmates perfected uniform maintenance, and they took pride in wearing it around. Civilian clothing wasn't allowed aboard ships for those E-6 and below, so "locker clubs" sprang up in ports. They became a quick stop for sailors coming ashore. For a few bucks, sailors could rent a locker, shower up, get a hot meal and change into civilian duds before heading into town. (They reversed the process, donning uniforms before heading back to the ship before curfew.) The uniforms between the two sea services were so similar that retired Master Chief Petty Officer Vince Patton once told a story about how he confused the two services. Seeking the Navy, he accidentally walked into the Coast Guard recruiter's office in the early 1970s. "I was too embarrassed to walk out, so I decided to wait until the recruiter finished talking to me, and then go join the Navy," said Patton. "However, not ever knowing anything about the Coast Guard at the time, I became really interested in their mission." Patton would go on to become the eighth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard. COAST GUARDSMEN WEARING DUNGAREES REPOSITION A BUOY, CIRCA 1960. Uniform Issue • 2019 � RESERVIST 7

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