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thedrifter
11-21-07, 07:12 AM
Posted on Wed, Nov. 21, 2007
Marines get tough on camos
Digital camouflage uniforms will seldom be seen in public
By DAN HILLIARD
dhilliard@beaufortgazette.com

BEAUFORT — The Marine Corps’ digital camouflage utility uniform might allow leathernecks to disappear in jungles and deserts, but it makes them stick out like a sore thumb at banks and day-care centers.

In July, an order from Corps commandant Gen. James Conway tightened the Corps’ already strict prohibition on wearing utilities in public, forcing both Marines and businesses to adapt.

For the past 20 years, Marines have been allowed to wear their utility uniforms for short convenience stops: grabbing a bite to eat, picking up a child from day care or visiting the bank.

The new prohibition limits Marines to wearing their utilities on base, in their private vehicle or during emergencies. They also cannot wear them while using public transportation.

So Marines can visit a drive-through to grab a burger, but if their receipt blows away, they must change into civilian clothes before retrieving it.

According to an all-Marine order Conway issued, the new standards were crafted to maintain the Corps’ image and safeguard against domestic terrorists targeting Marine personnel.

“As Marines, our uniforms and military appearance are an important part of our identity and have traditionally marked us as the nation’s most distinctive military service,” he said. “As such, uniformity and an outward pride in our appearance have been constants for every Marine — from private to general.”

Most Marines seem to be taking the order in stride, said Shell gas station cashier Sabrina Smith. Smith works at a station about a mile away from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort along U.S. 21.

“I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen them in here in uniform (since July),” she said.

In fact, Smith said she didn’t recognize some of her regular customers when they started to visit the Shell station in their civilian clothes.

“We see them all the time, so I guess it’s been effective. They’re listening.”

Some Marines have been obeying the order by having their spouses pick up their children at day care, said Sandra Wells, a manager at Kid-N-Kaboodle on Parris Island Gateway.

“The children are staying longer because they have to wait for the other parent,” she said.

At least one business was positioned to benefit from the order. By corporate directive, all Quiznos restaurants across the country will deliver. The Quiznos on U.S. 21 began delivery service about a week ago, franchise owner Bobbie Jo Santus said.

Santus said she expects to haul quite a few subs to the area’s three military installations once word gets out.

“We’re hoping to cater to the military when they’re stuck on base,” she said. “I believe I’m going to beat Quiznos’ (sales) standards.”

Corps Store owner Curt Furtado said he hasn’t seen a drop-off in utility purchases or an upswing in Corps-related civilian clothes, like golf shirts emblazoned with the Corps emblem, but he does anticipate Marines to adapt by keeping an emergency set of civilian clothes in their car or by traveling in pairs — one Marine in uniform, the other out — to make routine purchases.

Furtado said the order strikes Beaufort particularly hard because neither Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island nor the air station is a massive, self-contained base like Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Marines must go off base to get some of their essentials, he said.

“On Camp Lejeune, you have the largest Domino’s Pizza in the world and the largest Burger King in the world,” he said. “You can expect to drive 6 miles just to get out the front gate. There’s hardly 6 miles between Parris Island and the air station here. But you know what Marines do? They improve, adapt and overcome, so that’s what they’ll do.”

Hilliard is a reporter for The (Beaufort) Gazette, a McClatchy newspaper.

Ellie