NORFOLK, Va. - Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) and Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CPF) distributed a message to commanders and commanding officers Jan. 11 that announces the agendas of two uniform working groups.
The working groups are reviewing the requirements and flame resistant qualities of fleet organizational clothing and subsequently the suitability of working uniforms worn at sea. They were formed following a recent impromptu test by the Navy clothing textile research facility that showed the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type I is not flame resistant and will burn when subjected to flame.
USFF Commander Adm. Bill Gortney said the working group that will review all organizational clothing worn by Sailors on ships, submarines, and in expeditionary units is designed to inform the second working group, which will ultimately determine the requirements for at-sea working uniforms.
The Navy removed the requirement for all hands to wear flame resistant uniforms at sea in 1996.
"The organizational clothing working group has been tasked with providing fact-based information and determining whether to limit flame resistant organizational clothing to Sailors who work in engineering departments, flight decks, and other high risk areas; or to expand fire resistant organizational clothing to all Sailors afloat," said Gortney. "Those findings are necessary before any recommendations can be made about at-sea working uniforms."
The primary consideration for both working groups is Sailor safety, and the results will provide the answers needed to maintain operational readiness and safety requirements.
"We intend to use these working groups to inform a deliberative review process. We will determine the level of protection our Sailors need, given the missions and tasks we expect them to execute in their respective work environments," said Gortney.
Both working groups will be comprised of members of the USFF and CPF staffs along with members of the Naval Safety Center, systems commands, and various operational commands.
While the groups are not working on a specific timeline, Gortney said he hopes to have the organizational working group's findings in a matter of weeks.
The Navy currently requires Sailors who stand watch in engine room or machinery spaces to wear fire retardant coveralls, with the sleeves rolled down, and when they're performing maintenance in machinery spaces where steam is circulating in the piping systems or fuel fired machinery is in operation. Individual Navy type commanders also provide organizational clothing, with added protection, to Sailors working on the flight deck or as part of damage control teams.