While Army regulation (AR) 670-1 serves as the official gold-standard document regarding the universal wear and appearance of all United States' Army uniforms, it has, itself, undergone many evolutions and transformations in the actual standards conveyed by its text. With each new uniform introduction or replacement, these updates and changes have been made periodically as the United States' Army has engaged in various wars and conflicts over the years. Unlike the many nuances involved with the wear and appearance of particular objects on Army uniforms, such as military medals, awards, and insignia, one section of AR 670-1 that has remained relatively consistent over the years has been the section that details when the wear of any United States' Army uniform is either required or prohibited.
This particular Army regulation does go to great lengths to empower leadership to convey these uniform standards down to the lowest ranking individual. Where "grey areas" may exist, such as in grooming and haircut styling, this document also provides leadership with the opportunity to use their better judgment in enforcing these uniform standards. When it comes to determining whether wearing a United States' Army uniform is required or prohibited, AR 670-1 is very straightforward and to the point. If questions remain after reading this InfoBarrel article, and AR 670-1, it is imperative that an individual Soldier speak directly to their leadership while seeking guidance.
Duty Uniform Considerations
The United States' actual duty uniform has transformed over the decades to meet increased needs and demands of Soldiers in relation to their current operating environments. With the increase in technology, the Army duty uniform, for example, has shifted from a battle dress uniform (BDU) to a more digitized Army combat uniform (ACU). As extensive research regarding the effectiveness of certain patterns of camouflage increase, it is very likely that, so also, will the duty uniform change and evolve with time. While AR 670-1 has remained consistent with duty uniform wear and appearance, it has naturally had to change the actual wording of uniform names that relate to the specific duty uniform of the time. For this very reason, you may find an outdated edition of AR 670-1 that mentions a different uniform than what you may be familiar with.
In accordance with AR 670-1, whatever the current duty uniform is subsequent to the publishing of this InfoBarrel article, the duty uniform must simply be worn while on duty. There are a small handful of individuals that can grant an individual Soldier exception to wearing this uniform, however. Instead, if deemed necessary by any of the following people, AR 700-84 can be consulted regarding the wear of civilian clothes while on duty:
- Unit Commanding Officers, of Major Commands
- the Secretary of Defense (or his/her designee), Assistant Secretaries, or the Secretary of the Army
- Various Agency Leaders in the Department of Defense
- Agencies of the Department of the Army Staff and Leadership
Civilian Uniform Over Duty Uniform?
While the United States' Army and Department of Defense do provide for certain individuals in leadership to grant personalized exceptions regarding the interchanging of duty uniform and civilian clothing, AR 670-1 does speak of how civilian clothing can be worn instead of a duty uniform in several situations. Even though a Soldier may choose to wear their duty uniform while personally traveling on a flight with with Air Mobility Command (AMC), they are fully within their rights and Army standard to wear civilian clothing during the movements that may involve orders regarding temporary duty (TDY), permanent change of station (PCS), space-available flights, or emergencyleave. Ultimately, the decision regarding whether duty uniform or civilian clothing and attire will be worn by the servicemember in these particular situations rests in the hands of that Soldier's command structure.
Understand the Mix and Matching of Uniforms
The United States' Army's gradual evolution of its uniform standards, as expressed in AR 670-1 has occured for good reason over decades of identifying Soldier needs and tendencies. This document does, however, span hundreds of pages that details each individual aspect of each individual unfirom that a Soldier may wear. Likewise, no uniform should be mix and matched in combination with the wear of another uniform, or the wear of civilian clothing and attire, in any setting. While one may be tempted to wear an element of United States' duty uniform, such as a beret or patrol cap, with their civilian attire, this is expressely forbidden by AR 670-1 (unless future editions make exceptions).
In a schoolhouse setting, such as presented in advanced individual training (AIT) or the basic officer's leadership course (BOLC), the carrying of a bag to hold textbooks and notebooks in permitted under certain circumstances. Rather than be slung across the body like a messenger bag, this bag can be carried over one shoulder or both shoulders in accordance with the Soldier's comforting while carrying it. This bag must be black and free from logos or additional designs. Fortunately, in accordance with these standards, it is very easy for a Soldier to find black schoolhouse type book bags in their local base PX.
Understand When the Duty Uniform is Prohibited
Because the need and desire to protest has been a cornerstone principle of our nation's Democratic Republic for decades, AR 670-1 has remained relatively consistent with its standards regarding the wear of the duty uniform for protest. Unless authorized by a competent authority, the any United States' Army service or duty uniform must not be worn in any situation in which the furtherance of any political agenda may be had. While Soldiers will naturally have their own opinions regarding pertinent issues of the time, the United States' Army should not be placed in the position to be perceived as supporting, or not supporting, any particular cause. For this reason, a Soldier must refrain from wearing the uniform if involved in a political protest, marches, rally, or any event that is sponsored by an extremist organization.
It is important to realize that no individual servicemember should wear any uniform while engaged in any activity that could possibly reflect poorly on their service.
Consult Leadership and AR 670-1
If you are ever unsure of when any United States' Army uniform is authorized, or prohibited, to be worn, you should strongly consider consulting your leadership and/or AR 670-1. Sergeants, otherwise known as "Non-Commissioned Officers" (NCOs), have had at least some training in understanding the fundamentals of Army regulation. If your initial leadership is unable to provide an answer, collaborate with them to seek guidance from the next highest ranked individual in your leadership chain-of-command.
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