The Navy's traditions live on in the hearts of those who serve

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why should Chief's and Officers have a different uniforms?

I received a comment from a reader about my comments on the enlisted working uniforms.  Specifically, my point that the Chiefs and Officers should be back in Work Khakis and the Enlisted members in a different, preferably Dungarees, uniform.  The question was why?

In other services, where they operate in a ground, combat, arena, being identified as the Leader is deadly!!  You become the target of the sniper!  That's why Corpsmen ditch the Red Cross emblems, and all rating and rank insignias are blacked out!  Everyone looks the same, so who do I shoot!  Now, an observant sniper can tell who is in charge just by watching WHO is giving the orders.

But on a Navy ship, the appearance of the individual with the experience and authority is important. For instance, if the Commanding Officer enters the Bridge or CIC, someone calls out; "The Captain is in Combat or The Captain is on the Bridge!"  At that point, the Officer of the Deck or the CIC Watch Officer gives the Captain a status report!  Same thing happens if the Admiral is embarked and he enters the Bridge or CIC.   By uniform and insignia, you can immediately know who the Commanding Officer is!

Until after World War Two, Chiefs did not wear Khakis as a work uniform.  The wore Dungarees with a "Chiefs" Combination Cap!   That "Chief's Cap" was their emblem of experience and authority and it made them distinctive.  The "Old" Chief's Initiation made a big deal about "Putting on the HAT!"   I very seldom wore a Command baseball cap and I never wore a Garrison Cap.  Why, the "Hat" meant a lot to me and it carried tradition and respect that I honored.  I did not want to look like an Officer or an E-6.  I was CHIEF!

Today, I see Chiefs, Officer, and E-1 through E-6 being "Buddies", playing the same video games, and calling each other by their first names.   I believe this is detrimental to good order and discipline. My job was not to be your friend, my job was tho make sure you came home, safe!  If yelling at you and making your life a living hell made that happen, so be it.  I was "The Chief", not your buddy.  And even when we did not wear "Covers" during Flight Quarters, Replenishment, Handling Ammo, or inside the ship, my Khakis and my Collar Devices identified me as the Experience and Authority figure.  Even if you did not know who I was, you knew WHAT I was!  In charge!

SO, I know that to reestablish the backbone of the Navy, a distinctive uniform for the Chiefs and Officers is paramount.  It worked before and it will work now!


  1. ATTABOY Master Chief. Now how do you transfer this common sense to the uniform board and to the MCPON.

  2. So how do leaders in our sister services and our own warfare communities who are engaged in combat effectively lead in combat when they don't wear khakis? On most ships, wouldn't you agree that most Sailors know who the Chiefs and Officers are? I agree that a uniform/rank insignia visibly communciate your authority (legitimate/positional power base), but it doesn't guarantee or make you a good leader. Effective use and development of other power bases (expert, personal, reward, coercive, information) do that. I think we know the legitimate and best leaders on the ship, not just by their uniform, but more by their actions.