DECEMBER 7, 2016, GREAT LAKES (NNS) – The first female Sailors at Recruit Training Command graduated boot camp with the new female enlisted dress blue jumpers uniform, marking another historic moment for the Navy, Dec. 2.
Previously, the uniform traditionally known as the dress blue “Crackerjack” has only been worn by males, but as part of the Navy’s efforts towards uniformity in service members’ uniforms, will now also be worn by females.
“We are excited to introduce the new female dress blue jumpers here at Recruit Training Command,” said Capt. Michael Garrick, commanding officer, RTC. “Our new Sailors look great. The new jumpers improve the uniformity of the graduating divisions, and ultimately make them even more cohesive units.”
Division 904, the state flags graduation performing division, contained the first enlisted female recruits issued the dress blue jumpers when they arrived in October. Additional female recruits at the Navy’s only boot camp have superseded these historical female recruits and are being issued their new uniforms.
The uniform was designed and tailored exactly like the enlisted male dress blue jumpers, with 13 buttons on the trousers and the jumper top with a flap. The new jumper top has incorporated a side zipper, and the trousers will have a front zipper to help with changing in and out of uniform. The old female uniform with jacket and tie for female petty officers and junior Sailors will be phased out.
“RTC has embraced the Navy’s uniform changes,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Shawn Isbell, command master chief, RTC. “Our recruit division commanders have led the charge in training proper fit and wear of the new uniforms. When you look out over the drill deck at a sea of white hats and dress blues, one can’t help but be filled with pride that every Sailor is now wearing the most recognized uniform in the world.”
The Navy uniform is rich in history and through the centuries, starting with the 18th-century British navy, have evolved based on the fundamental working needs of the Sailor. The Navy redesigned several uniform elements for Sailors which improve uniformity across the force, as well as improve the function and fit of their uniforms. Just like the transition to the new “Dixie cup” cover in April 2016, the changes will eventually make all uniforms more gender neutral.
“It felt great to have been one of the first females to get issued the uniform,” said Seaman Recruit Leah Mendiola, after trying on her dress blue jumper top. “It’s an amazing feeling to wear the same uniform as my male brothers serving our great country and be part of making history. It’s really awesome how something as simple as our uniform is a historical symbol developing equality and the uniformity in our great military.”
She expressed a sense of honor in being one the first females part of the Navy’s transition of the Sailor’s uniform.
During eight weeks of basic training, the female recruits are trained on the proper wear and care of the new dress blue uniform. During a recent personnel inspection, the female recruits lined up in their compartment for their final uniform inspection.
“The recruits wore the uniform smartly and looked really sharp and professional,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Moses Brathwaite, fleet quality assurance. “The proper wear and care of the uniform and the standard set forth by the division’s RDCs was clearly evident throughout the inspection. The division was exceptionally sharp!”
During their sixth week of training, Division 904 performed in a graduation ceremony where the females wore the dress blue jumper top publically for the first time in Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall.
“It was a great feeling as I held the Guam flag — where I’m from,” said Mendiola. “Being able to hold the flag and march in front of families with the same uniform as the male Sailors was definitely an amazing experience.”
From a male perspective, Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Mitchell, one of the division’s RDCs, believes it isn’t a uniform which makes a Sailor, but the Sailor themselves.
“I think for women in general, if they do good things it doesn’t matter what uniform they are going to wear,” said Mitchell. “I don’t care if they wore a smock; it’s irrelevant. If they’re doing something good, they’re going to be remembered in history forever.”
As he watched his division throughout their training, Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Treanor recognized the importance of the uniform transition.
“During the eight-week process of training these female recruits, I never stopped to think about the historical context of them being the first female division to wear the female jumper top,” said Treanor. “I am very proud to be part of this event, and I can honestly say they are proud to serve their country and will wear the uniform proudly serving next to their brothers in the Navy.”
In addition to uniformity, the change also marks continued progress towards equality among Sailors.
“I like being able to wear the same uniform as them, because the Navy stresses a lot about equal opportunity and now I actually feel equal with these uniforms,” said Mendiola.
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks, and all enlistees into the United States Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes seamanship, firearms familiarization, firefighting and shipboard damage control, lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork, and discipline. Since the closure of RTCs in Orlando and San Diego in 1994, RTC Great Lakes is, today, the Navy’s only basic training location, and is known as “The Quarterdeck of the Navy.”
Today, 30,000-40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.