View Full Version : When is it not appropriate to wear a military uniform
07-17-2006, 11:46 AM
I got to wondering after seeing this Pit thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=379935&page=1&pp=50) about what is the protocol regarding American military personnel wearing their uniforms in ordinary civilian activities, such as going to bars (to drink and or to pick up girls), attending formal events such as family weddings and funerals, and going to 7-11. The thread concerns so-called BDUs, which stands for Battle Dress Uniforms, which old guys like me equate to the old fatigue uniforms. (Back in the day we civilians thought the military people only had two types of clothes, "full dress uniforms" and "fatigues." Now everything is acronymized so fatigues are called BDUs. I don't know that the uniforms formerly known as full dress uniforms are called now.)
Hypothetically speaking, is there any place where wearing BDUs is inappropriate? The pit thread concerns people wearing their uniforms to bars in order to impress and pick up girls, which has been happening since the beginning of time of course.
How about if the military person was involved in a civilian trial for a non-military event, like suing or being sued, or as the victim in a civilian criminal trial? I imagine it would be perfectly legal for the person to wear his/her uniform in court becaue people dress to impress the judge/jury all the time, and if you've got it, flaunt it, but are there any negative repercussions for doing so? In the other thread there was a link to a certain military post's position on this question, but does this vary from post to post?
BTW, IAAL but this is just a hypothetical for future reference. I've represented military personnel in the past who didn't want to wear their uniforms in civilian court and I didn't press the issue, but perhaps I should have.
07-17-2006, 12:00 PM
By most regs (AFI, AFRs, and I'm not sure of the Navy equivalents), you are only authorized to wear BDUs at work, while communting to and from, and the occasional lunchtime spot downtown or while on other errands. You cannot wear a uniform (as a rule of thumb):
Where it would imply corporate or political sponsorship of a person, party, or particular event--no political rallies.
Where it would damage the image of the US Military
Like you said, in bars or in casinos (no gamblin' or drinkin')
There are plenty of other times where it would be innapropriate, but not illegal. Depending on the case, wearing a uniform in a court of law might be the completely appropriate thing to do: "Your Honor, I couldn't answer the summons in a timely fashion because I was deployed to Upickastan."
I'll have to dig up the AFI's for you, but they're out there.
I was gonna wear mine to my sister's wedding, but then I figured it'd draw too much attention to me--it's her damn wedding after all.
07-17-2006, 12:29 PM
Like you said, in bars or in casinos (no gamblin' or drinkin')
I used to regularly drink beer at the EM (enlisted man's) club while wearing my fatigues. Off base, I wore civilian clothes. Fancier uniforms, class A and khaki, were reserved for travel, parades, and the occasional uniform inspection.
07-17-2006, 12:31 PM
I've seen several service academy students wearing dress uniform for medical school interviews as well.
07-17-2006, 01:05 PM
I wonder about this too. I see Army personnel flying commercial aircraft in BDUs and, as a ex-Navy guy, am amazed. It seems to me that if we were flying in uniform it had to be dress blues or dress whites. Maybe it is just the Navy in me, but I would think all of the services would require dress uniforms for situations in which you are going to be in public and very visible.
07-17-2006, 01:07 PM
The Marine Corps does not allow the use of Utilities except for travel to and from work, and some small exceptions (gas station, bank, day care, etc.) while traveling to and from work. You can usually wear them anytime while on base (on-base clubs, food service). Other uniforms worn in the place of utilities (air station personnel, food service personnel) fall under the same scope).
The other uniforms depend on season/weather. Most dress and service uniforms are authorized for wear anywhere, except where it would bring discredit upon the Marine Corps. For example, we would all love being in a non-military town, where being in the Marines actually meant something, and would go to strip clubs wearing our dress blues (women loved them). It always got us a lot of free drinks, lap dances, and was easy to bring someone home (and God knows what else we got).
It is pretty hard to navigate, but feel free to look HERE (http://www.marcorsyscom.usmc.mil/sites/mcub/) , which is the official Marine Corps website about uniforms.
SIDE NOTE: The Marine Corps does not allow earrings of any kind ever for males, but I just had an active-duty Sergeant Major come here with his ear pierced.
07-17-2006, 01:29 PM
Basically each branch has its own designation for types of uniforms, and they set up the conditions for proper wear thereof.
As stated in the USAF case, generally all the services ban wearing the uniform to any activity that may "bring discredit to the service", to a political event, in the course of private employment or commercial activity, etc. ; and the combat/utility uniform may be worn off-duty & off-post while traveling to-from duty, and in activities incidental to the time between leaving and returning home in a workday; e.g. if the Home Center is on the road between the post and home, you should have no trouble if meeting your spouse there to pick up the new lawnmower and then eating at Friendly's; but you can't pub crawl in them. The EM/NCO/Officer's club is a different case, as it is in-post.
Due to the broadness of the "discredit" part, it's not unusual for military men and women to be very conservative about when and where they wear their uniforms off-duty.
07-17-2006, 01:42 PM
My sister and I used to dread going to the mall with our dad when were kids. It's bad enough being army brats, but a trip to the mall usally included our dad finding at least one person there in their BDU's and he saw it as mission to inform them of the Base policy reguarding the wearing of BDU's From residence to Duty Station, and that the mall was neither of these. He would get the offenders name unit and the name of their CO, then call the CO the next day. We cringed when we say soliders in uniform in the mall and at times even directed Dad's attention away from someone we saw in uniform. When we moved from Ft Bragg NC to Ft Lewis Washington he stopped pulling people aside off base that were in Uniform, when asked why he told us that Fort Lewis had a different policy with reguards to uniforms than Fort Bragg did.
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