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 WORKING UNIFORM OF THE 1970S VARIED WIDELY AS DIFFERENT UNIFORMS WERE TESTED AND PRODUCTION WAS STANDARDIZED. COAST GUARD PHOTO. A S H O C K T O T H E S Y S T E M In 1970, Adm. Chester R. Bender became commandant, and at a Coast Guard Officers Association luncheon, he made a comment that he'd like to see a new uniform for the service. This idea for change came on the heels of the 1967 addition of the "racing stripe." Servicemen didn't realize how serious the commandant was, and some were a little dismayed when questionnaires were sent to the fleet regarding changes to the enlisted uniform. (Many officers still believed their uniforms were safe.) A poll in the Navy Times in 1973 shows that 67 percent of Coast Guardsmen preferred their old uniform; less than 20 percent favored a change. Chiefs nationwide expressed their dismay at the potential loss of their beloved uniforms. Chief Petty Officer James D. Walker expressed the opinion of the 155 members of the Eighth District Chief Petty Officers Association when he wrote to the commandant. "Part of the reward for the years of hard work put forth by all chief petty officers to attain the position of Chief is wearing the distinctive uniform of a chief; it is a uniform worn with pride," said Walker. "Furthermore, the uniform is a recognized symbol of authority and leadership and any change would be detrimental to its effectiveness. Therefore, we strongly recommend that the present uniform for chiefs be retained." Another discussion point revolved around issuing the same uniform for officers and enlisted. More than 60 percent of the officer corps disagreed with the idea of not being able to spot an officer from a distance based on the uniform he wore. Bender, adamant about the necessity of the impending change, was reported to have said, "This is where the officer corps and I part company." The Uniform Program at Coast Guard Headquarters worked with the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Unit in Natick, Mass., to review new uniform colors, styles and fabrics. They chose the uniform still in use today: a dark blue single-breasted jacket with matching pants, a pale blue, long sleeve shirt, dark blue neck tie, combination cap with white cover, and black shoes and socks. In March 1974, recruits were issued the new uniform, and all enlisted with a year left on their contract also received a new set of uniforms. In 1975, the officer corps followed suit, and by 1977, the service was fully outfitted in "Bender Blues." "The intent was to fashion a uniform for all-season, all-climate wear," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Patrinos, head of Uniform Logistics in an interview in 1975, one year after the switch. "The new Coast Guard blue uniform is going to supplant all the various blue, khaki and white uniforms we've been 8 RESERVIST � Uniform Issue • 2019

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