Despite three out of five female Marines surveyed supporting the Corps’ move to adopt a unisex-style dress blue coat, one demographic was less enthusiastic about the gender-neutral look: women serving as field grade or staff noncommissioned officers.
According to Marine Corps Times, the new female dress blue coat was one of the most significant changes that came out of the Marine Corps’ most recent uniform board survey. Roughly 3,650 Marines provided input concerning the proposed change to the service’s iconic dress uniform, which proved more popular with younger Marines.
The majority of male and female respondents – roughly 55 percent – favored replacing the women’s classic dress blue coat with a unisex prototype, which has been tested over the past 18 months. Enlisted women in particular, supported the move with about 60 percent of the demographic surveyed hoping to add the new coat to their kit.
However, the move wasn’t quite as popular with majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels or staff NCOs. Around half of Marine women in those ranks that participated voted to keep the existing female-style dress coat, allowing for the option of adopting the unisex-style prototype as a special assignment item to be issued at unit expense.
That compared to just 28 percent of junior Marines who voted the same way.
The new coat was adopted after over two years of tests and experiments that coincided with the Pentagon’s push for gender-neutral physical standards and job opportunities. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last summer said his goal is a collection of uniforms that “don’t divide us as male or female, but rather unite us as sailors or Marines.”
While the unisex coat was one of the most notable uniform changes Marines will face as a result of the survey, it also got the lowest amount of votes. Nearly three times the number of Marines chimed in on at least four other possible uniform changes, including more flexibility with the determination of seasonal uniforms.
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller sided with the majority opinions of the survey each time, and made the changes official Jan. 8. The new uniform guidance is detailed in Marine administrative message 011/16.
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