The Corps’ tests on common uniform items for male and female Marines stemmed from the Navy secretary’s philosophy that all service members should look the same — regardless of gender.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said when he looks at a group of Marines, he shouldn’t see female and male Marines, just Marines.
“That’s the advantage of having one cover,” he told Defense Media Activity during an Oct. 31 interview. “We don’t ask any other group to wear a different uniform, and the whole term of uniform means, the same.”
Many Marines, unhappy with the proposed unisex covers, laid the blame squarely in the commandant’s lap, perhaps unfairly.
Mabus’ spokeswoman, Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, said the secretary didn’t issue a directive to either of the branches about how to conduct the wear tests, but he shared his view on male and female service members looking the same during a meeting with Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.
“It started from a conversation that the secretary had with both the CNO and the commandant where he shared his philosophy on service members in uniform, that when you see two service members walking toward you, they should be indistinguishable,” Lawrence said.
The Marine Corps began wear tests for unisex uniform items this summer. Women at Marine Barracks Washington sported tailored versions of men’s dress blue jackets, with mandarin-style collars, during this year’s parade season. And last month, the Marine Corps Uniform Board met to discuss the adoption of a universal cover for men and women.
The Navy conducted its own wear test on a common cover for sailors and officers.
None of the wear tests have been particularly popular among Marines or sailors. In fact, the outrage over a common “Dan Daly” style cap for male and female Marines made national headlines when it was unveiled last month.
Both Amos and President Obama were blamed for the unisex cover proposal, which prompted the commandant to release a statement assuring Marines that the commander in chief had nothing to do with the wear test. Amos also told Marines that the Corps had “zero intention of changing the male cover.”
When asked about the change to male covers by a Military Times reporter, Mabus echoed the commandant’s comments, but stopped short of taking credit for pushing the unisex look.
“I would just quote the commandant of the Marine Corps: That hat ain’t gonna happen,” Mabus said. “I mean, that’s what he said. I believe the commandant.”