Sailors on the destroyer Arleigh Burke wear flame-resistant coveralls as they handle mooring lines during a visit to Bahrain in May. (MC2 (SW/AW) Carlos M. Vazquez/Navy)
The fleet’s new coveralls may stand up to a fire, but they’re also ill-fitting and stuffy.
“They are hot,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Stayskal, who works in the galley of the destroyer Ross. “Also we only get three of them, and if I’m working in the galley, they are going to smell.”
Well, those gripes have been heard.
Fleet Forces Command, which developed the flame-resistant variant coveralls, said it began funding the design of an improved version of the new coveralls in May.
Here’s what you need to know:
1 Better fit. The most common complaint: FRVs don’t fit right. Ross crew members were issued coveralls one or two sizes too big because they shrink in the wash. But after washing, some sailors said they either didn’t fit well or were still too long.
The issues with size and fit will be addressed with the improved FRV, FFC spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Reann Mommsen said, which will incorporate a synthetic fabric designed to prevent laundry shrinkage.
2 Insignia change. Sailors have been required to pin their insignia onto their collar, a rule unpopular in the fleet. After hearing complaints, FFC decided to change tack and is allowing sailors to sew on rank patches.
3 Too hot. Of the more than a dozen sailors interviewed by Navy Times, nearly all agreed that the old poly-cotton utility coveralls were more comfortable for working outside or in hot spaces.
Seaman Mackeon Dudley, a member of the deck division, also said the coveralls were too warm and preferred the utility coveralls for topside work like chipping and painting. But he had positive things to say, as well.
“I like that they are a little looser,” he said. “It gives me a little more freedom of movement.”
FFC says the uniform’s flame-resistant protection is its most important feature and it is unclear how an improved uniform could keep this and be more breathable in a low-cost design.
4 More sets. Stayskal and others said they wished they had four sets for switching into after dirty work, saying the three pairs being issued as organizational clothing to fleet sailors aren’t enough.
However, Mommsen said the fleet is fielding 216,000 sets of coveralls to outfit sailors with three sets each. If ships determine sailors need more, they can use their operating target funds, or OPTAR, to buy more. In addition, any coveralls that are damaged by tearing or paint can be turned in for a replacement set.
New design. The improved FRV is at the outset of the design process, and officials aren’t able to say when it will be rolled out — it’s likely a year away. But the aim is to make it something the entire fleet can wear, with low-lint requirements for submarine crews.
“Our primary concern is the safety of our sailors,” Mommsen said. “The primary focus of both the FRV and the improved FRV remains durable flame resistance.”