Army’s Top NCO Talking Radical Reforms to Uniforms, Grooming

From Carl Prine’s Line of Departure:

Radical reforms to the way soldiers dress, greet superior officers and wear tattoos are coming your way if Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III has his way.

That seems to be what’s indicated by a series of 33 PowerPoint slides called the “AR 670–1 Update Brief” and that bear Chandler’s name, rank and title.  They were sent to Line of Departure earlier this week and highlight SMA’s attempts to spiff up an Army after more than a decade of war.

Prine offered this summary of the changes, which seemed more conjecture at this stage than actual proposals.  Here are some that caught my attention as I read through:

  • Strict standards for sideburns and mustaches.
  • Return to the more “conservative” and “professional” haircuts for women.
  • Revival of standards for cosmetics and nail coloring.
  • Tattoos… um… well… maybe you can have one.
  • No starch for the ACUs.  (Translation – the pajama look is IN!)
  • Soldiers cannot walk and at the same time engage in activities preventing exchange of salutes.
  • Bags must be black or camo pattern matching uniform, but can be worn with one strap over the shoulder (not crossing over the body)
  • Soldiers will salute and give the greeting of the day, even when in civilian attire.
  • Civilian clothing worn off duty must not be revealing.
  • For all intents, no body piercings… save earrings for women.

Appears to me a return to the pre-1992 regulations.  Please correct me if I’m wrong, as I haven’t been concerned with AR 670-1 for a while now.

No sideburns?

Now that is a slap at tradition if you ask me.


31 thoughts on “Army’s Top NCO Talking Radical Reforms to Uniforms, Grooming”

  1. Craig,

    Are you sure you REALLY want to use Ambrose Burnside as the example of military success and virtue?

    He was a man who kept telling people he was being promoted above his abilities as a division commander and he went on an proved that at every opportunity he was given.

    I’d have used Custer as a brigade commander phot as an example….MUCH better!

    1. Craig,

      I have an MA in Civil War History. I don’t need to “Burnside – sideburns… Google… google… google.”

    2. But he had an awesome ‘stache!!!

      My overall point was facial hair….

      Not to mention the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach upon seeing Burnside show up!

    3. Arguably Burnside did more for the cavalry, by inventing one of the best breech-loading carbines of the war, than Custer did. But that said, Burnside did have some issue with bridges which has not, in my opinion, been completely cleared up after 150 years.

  2. heh

    You’d get an article 15 today if you posed for an official photo with half the buttons on your blouse undone.

  3. Gonna Fisk this:
    – Strict standards for sideburns and mustaches.
    Eh, whatever. Dumb, but no one can argue that they’re not visible in uniform.

    – Return to the more “conservative” and “professional” haircuts for women.
    I’d need to see what sparked this change, but as I recall, the women in my unit either had terrible “butch” haircuts or wore their hair pulled tight into a bun.

    – Revival of standards for cosmetics and nail coloring.
    Didn’t know they had relaxed em.

    – Tattoos… um… well… maybe you can have one.
    If it doesn’t show in uniform (including PTs) it might as well not be there. So basically, I’m ok with this IF it only regulates those which show while in uniform.

    – No starch for the ACUs. (Translation – the pajama look is IN!)
    Yeah, I’m actually in favor of this one. It was garrison minded bulls**t that I had to iron and starch a COMBAT UNIFORM to make some GC happy. Especially when we KNEW doing so destroyed the IR suppressive capabilities of the BDU.

    – Soldiers cannot walk and at the same time engage in activities preventing exchange of salutes.
    What the hell are soldiers doing that prompted this? Is there a yoyo craze that I didn’t know about?

    – Bags must be black or camo pattern matching uniform, but can be worn with one strap over the shoulder (not crossing over the body)
    Mickey mouse BS, but I can see it.
    – Soldiers will salute and give the greeting of the day, even when in civilian attire.
    Utter BS. And this one I think the SMA lost his damn mind over. Off duty is off duty. I was never disrespectful to my NCOs or officers while off duty, but there’s NO way this is justified.

    – Civilian clothing worn off duty must not be revealing.
    Sorry, SMA. Unless you’re buying my civvies, piss off.

    – For all intents, no body piercings… save earrings for women.
    Again, if it doesn’t show in uniform, you’re wrong to try and dictate it. It’s not the SMA’s business if I’ve got a Prince Albert (I don’t), and I’m kinda curious why he thinks it is. Tongue piercing is what I think this is about. and it actually was an issue while I was in. Fact is, you CAN’T hide that you have a hunk of metal in your mouth, no I DON’T care how clever you think you can hide it, you can’t. We all know you have it the instant you speak, and it “shows” while in uniform. Take it out while on duty, put it in on your own time.

    Basically, I’d say SMA has gone off the deep end on this one. Hopefully, someone reminds him that the soldiers can and SHOULD have lives outside of duty.

    1. First, the “money” part this article- Making 670-1 a punitive reg. That’s a new one.

      Re: salute and greeting of the day in civvies, it’s a bit asinine, though it was the accepted standard within the company area for every unit I was in. If I saw one of my company officers, of course, I saluted him, whether he was in or out of uniform, or I. But only my company officers.

      The traditions and customs of the service have long held that saluting out of uniform was not appropriate, but coming to attention when addressed by or addressing an officer was.

      Eh, my point is, I’d hate to get jacked up by some brand new 2LT from another company that I don’t even know. I’m all for high standards, but not for petty bullshit.

    2. Interesting. Dunno if it was because we were a garrison command, but I can’t recall saluting anyone, out of uniform… ever. I can specifically recall when I ran into my Company Commander at a (civilian) club. I came to attention (I do recall that), but he did say “relax, have a good time” and wandered off. Just a good guy? Maybe.

      As for making it a punative reg, you mean beyond “failure to obey lawful orders”? There’s a need for that suddenly?

  4. “- Soldiers cannot walk and at the same time engage in activities preventing exchange of salutes.
    What the hell are soldiers doing that prompted this? Is there a yoyo craze that I didn’t know about? ”

    Cell phones.

    1. And carrying things in their right hand.

      I’ve been out now for almost ten years, and I still find that I always carry everything in my left hand,

      Also, funny thing about the bag and one-shoulder rule: when I was in the Navy they decided that we could only carry a bag on the shoulder if it had two straps and went over both shoulders. Had one senior chief on the pier try and tell me that my GI sea bag was out of uniform, because it only had one strap on it, and therefore I needed to get rid of it. First and only time I ever pulled rank – put him at the position of attention, ordered an about face, then a forward march. Felt good, too. Never liked that douchebag.

    2. Yeah, ok. These soldiers got two hands? Look, I’ve helped carry rolls of razorwire, technically SMA’s proposal says you can’t do that anymore (since you wouldn’t be able to salute while doing so). I’ve carried large boxes. No go. But had cellphones been around, I THINK I could have managed to hold it in my left hand.

    3. I can’t wait for the eventual time when an officer is talking on their Army issued Blackberry and fails to return the salute of a junior officer or NCO.

      That rule will get blown away in a hurry.

      (That said, there never is any excuse for NOT returning a salute. When I ever caught my fellow officers guilty of that I’d tear them a new one, regardless of the rank. Did it to a colonel once….of course I was DAC by then!)

    4. Buck, true story time.

      So there I was, summer of 93 in Monterrey, CA at the Defense Language institute. Myself (an Army PFC) and a Marine Lance Corporal were returning to class from the snack bar (me with my cup of coffee, him with his can of dip) and we passed an Army Captain. We both rendered our salute, and the CPT walked right by. My Marine buddy stopped, whirled about, and in a VERY Marine tone of voice stated, “Sir, we saluted you!” The Captain came about saluted and we all went on our way.

      The salute is not a one way show of respect. And woe betide the officer who neglects their responsibility to return that respect.

  5. Most of these thing’s have been regulated at installation command level in one way or another, at all the bases and JTF’s I’ve been around. It’s not unusual to see officer’s brush off salute’s to Joe, not saying it happen’s all the time, but I have witnessed it enough to know it’s out there. Now SMA want’s self same Joe to render salute’s in Civvies? Military courtesies are traditional, not punitive. O-1 on up get’s a better life than Joe from the get go, no need to make it stiffer on him. This is a sure way to alienate relations between the O and the E group even more. We all get it…Officer’s rule, Joe doesn’t. This seem’s like a needless way to “Rub the puppies nose in the poop” to me. Not sure what SMA is grousing about, he cant be bucking for a better job, maybe looking for a way to get recognized in perpetuity?



    1. If anyone sees an officer brush off a salute, they need to call that officer out on it. Like I said, I’ve seen it done, by an E-3 no less. Officers are not above customs and courtesies.

    2. As an E, I brushed off more salutes to O’s than I ever brushed off the returning of salutes from Es as an O (since I have NEVER not returned a salute except obviously when hands are full). But while we are on it, how about the crappy salutes rendered at about six inches out, essentially so late that both sides are past each other and look stupid saluting an empty sidewalk, or those salutes that are only rendered based on eye-contact (oh crap, he saw me) as opposed to recognition of rank. Or when you don’t salute because my hands are full? Or those that are barely rendered without any greeting whatsoever. It goes both ways; I am amazed at how much crying goes on about salutes. Let me tell you, they are a PITA, and far more of a PITA for officers than enlisted. It is a custom and courtesy; not sure why it gets blown out of proportion. By all means, call out any officer that doesn’t do it, but fix the other side of the equation, too. I return every salute rendered to me with a greeting and precision, regardless of the 5% crappy salutes that are rendered. As an E or an O, I have never had a problem saluting an officer I recognized, in civvies, in the unit area. It is a sign of respect, and only meant as such. BTW, it is the SMA’s initiative, not the CSA. I suspect that most officers would drop the salute requirement before others. I refuse to correct the 5% problem children because it will just perpetuate the myths/stereotype, and other than the bad attitudes, it is not willful. I find that good Soldiers render me a good salute, and they get the same back. But, I have a long story about a West Point 2LT and a non-salute in the dark at 0530 one morning that jaded me for a long time about officers, and salutes in my E days….

    3. I can’t say I ever recall not having a salute to an officer ignored. Maybe missed, or somesuch, but not ignored.

      And I can’t recall failing to salute deliberately either.

      It’s an exchange between warriors, professionals. It was automatic after just a couple months (of high school, in my case~ thanks NJROTC!)

    4. Exactly, Brad.

      After 4 years at The Citadel, salutes were just automatic for me too.

      (Although I do have to admit, the first couple I returned as an ENS … I forgot to order arms afterwards, I was so disbelieving that I had finally made it … had a few E’s look at me funny and clear their throats to remind me that I was supposed to drop the hand so they could, too.)

  6. I’d venture to say it’s fair to say we all have a similar story, from either side of the curtain. I can as well remember a certain Butterbar who made such an impression on one of my Joe’s, with a hand salute in the vertical, forefinger aligning his nose, and touching the tip of his cover, that that particular Joe forever after imitated that half ass–‘d salute when he thought he could get away with it. At any rate, my “Gripe” if that’s what it is; addresses the requirement to salute in civilian clothes. Joe is done for the day, let him be. A polite, respectful: “Sir” or “Ma’am” with greeting of the day should suffice. I conclude my comments on this topic.

  7. @Esli
    I must say that in five years, I recall exactly ONE salute not rendered in return by an officer (the incident I related). THAT’S how out of character it was. So I didn’t mean to give the impression that it was a common occurance, more of how egregious it was in the breach of commonality. I’ve saluted officers who had full hands, and said “don’t worry about it sir” when I got a sheepish look in return. That’s a completely understandable thing. And I can honestly say the ONLY time I dodged a salute was at DLI when I saw a group of officers including an Admiral (of some version, since I didn’t look THAT closely at his cuffs) at a distance. I found a reason to make a 90 degree detour away from the group. But that really wasn’t so I could avoid saluting, and more because I was trying to avoid a flag officer and his entourage (you NEVER know what they might ask of you).

    The worst thing we ever did WRT saluting, was at Goodfellow AFB, we’d see a USAF butter bar coming and spread out to do the six meter shuffle. And really, it was so we’d see the look on their face as they raised and lowered for each of us. Normally it took around 3-4 of us before they caught on to the intentional nature of the fact. But grins exchanged all around kept it from being mean spirited.

    1. Ahh, the old “spread it out” routine. I did that myself. In addition to all of us saluting left-handed. That gets a confused look! I did cross the road to avoid female officers, which I find professionally embarassing these days. I did not salute one until I was an E5.

  8. I apologize for changing the subject but I feel this is important. The E-7 select list came out and SOME WITH A COURT MARTIAL CONVICTION GOT PICKED UP IN A VERY COMPETITIVE MOS IN UNDER 10 YEARS. We are told “keep doing the hard duties, your time will come.” Please explain to me and trhe Soldiers dong te right thing recruiter duty passed over 3 years in a row, Instructors passed overand over again. These are supossed to give us a leg up. WE get passed up for this?

    1. That’s astonishing.

      And I wish I had a good answer for you.

      There was a court martial at Ft. Carson in the early 1990s where a young female soldier went to her boyfriend’s barracks room, and shot him in the face point blank.

      She was convicted, sentenced to effectively time served, reduced to E-1, but not discharged, nor barred to reenlistment. I was flabbergasted.

      Ironically, this was at a time when chaptering a soldier was awfully easy. 90 days, 3 counseling forms, and goodbye!*

      *For you civilians, “chaptering” refers to administratively discharging soldiers before the completion of their enlistment. Since it was administrative, it was non-punitive. The term “chaptering” itself refers to reference to the specific chapter of the Army Regulation governing administrative discharges. Some might be for an inability to adapt to military life, others for failure to meet the height and weight standards, or pass the PT test. Others might be for convenience of the government, and others were in addition to punitive action under the UCMJ. For instance, a soldier who tested positive for marijuana on a urinalysis test would be punished under Article 15 of the UCMJ, receive extra duty, restriction, and loss of grade and pay. Following that, they would often be separated from the service administratively. That is, chaptered.

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