Sleeves down year-round draws complaints

25 Oct 2011 | Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

In a short message published Marine Corpswide Oct. 18, Marines were ordered to carry out a simple task that takes all of 10 seconds to accomplish. Such a simple task, however, has proven to cause great concern and controversy as well as a few conspiracy theories.

Marine Administrative Message 621/11 details the recent change in how Marines wear the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform – “sleeves down, year round,” effective Oct. 24. As long as Marines did not alter their uniforms, such as sewing their sleeves in place, the execution of the order is not a complicated one at all. Yet from the Internet to the airwaves, complaints have been registered by the hundreds.

“We’re losing another part of our history as well as something that set us apart from the other branches of service,” said Staff Sgt. Dwayne Miller, career planner for 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. “It was a way to tell if a Marine took pride in his uniform or not. From shining the old boots to having the ones we have now, such is the case for going sleeves up to sleeves down. Sleeves down, just like the rest of the armed services.”

First implemented into the Marine Corps in 2002 to replace the 20-year-old Battle Dress Uniform, the MCCUU phased out the old fatigues in 2004 with the desert and woodland patterns. In the decades past when the Marine Corps utilized the BDUs in Haiti, the purpose of rolling sleeves was to distinguish the Marines from the other service members, as well as safeguarding against the elements.

“To me, it was a tradition - roll them up for the summer and down for the winter,” said Timothy Ciotti, retired master sergeant with 33 years of service. “However, Marines are going to get used to it and roll with the punches. If the commandant says they go down, they go down, and put up with it.”

The reason behind the policy implementation is for uniformity across the Marine Corps. Regardless of how hot or humid it could be, deployed Marines conducting operations overseas wear their sleeves down to guard against sunburn and sand abrasion. As such, the Marines in garrison are now expected to perform their duties under the same uniform regulations.

“There will be no impact to the overall mission of the Marine Corps or influence on daily garrison operations due to rolling our sleeves down,” said Capt. Kendra Hardesty, media officer with the Division of Public Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps. “We simply rolled our sleeves down two weeks before we were scheduled for our seasonal uniform change, and we will remain sleeves down now throughout the year.”

There is no validity to conspiracy theories that the Marine Corps is attempting to cover up arm tattoos or ensure that those Marines who do not possess the art of rolling sleeves do not continue to butcher their uniforms. The change will simplify the transition between combat theaters and training areas where sleeves are worn down and garrison bases where sleeves are worn up.