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Overseas (London) Military Related Question
Old 05-28-2011, 08:56 PM   #1
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Overseas (London) Military Related Question

I write fictional stories as a hobby and have my U.S. Naval character assigned to London -- specifically the U.S. Navy headquarters near Grosvenor Square.

My question is this -- When my character commutes to/from work, does he wear his Navy uniform or does SOFA stipulate that he should wear civilian clothes while navigating the streets of London? If he is required to wear civilian clothes, would it be acceptable for him to make the short walk to the U.S. embassy in London while in his uniform?

Thanks for any input you can provide.
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Old 05-28-2011, 09:12 PM   #2
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I do not know whether one would wear a uniform in those circumstances, but if one did, the season would make a difference as to which version. In the winter, U.S. Navy officers would wear Service Dress Blues (black wool double breasted suit coat with gold buttons and gold stripes on the sleeves, black wool trousers, white dress shirt, black tie, black shoes and white hat. In the summer, one would wear Tropical White Longs (or whatever they call it today), consisting of white, short-sleeve, open neck shirt with black shoulder boards denoting rank, white trousers and white shoes (and still a white hat). Hope that helps.

Edit: Just looked it up and the summer uniform is now called Summer Whites
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Old 05-29-2011, 01:06 AM   #3
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My question is this -- When my character commutes to/from work, does he wear his Navy uniform or does SOFA stipulate that he should wear civilian clothes while navigating the streets of London? If he is required to wear civilian clothes, would it be acceptable for him to make the short walk to the U.S. embassy in London while in his uniform?
Thanks for any input you can provide.
You might want to literally e-mail or phone the Public Affairs Officer and ask whether your character would be required to work in civilian clothes or in uniform. They might not be able to discuss current policy but they could refer you to instructions or discuss what would change the policy.

You could skip over the issue by requiring your character to work in civilian attire (due to some unspecified threat) or to work in uniform (due to May being Military Appreciation Month or some other excuse).

SOFA or not, I'd keep a couple of uniforms at work and commute in civilian attire. If I was traveling a short distance to a nearby meeting then I'd do it in uniform (just to save time) but if I was traveling for a day's meetings offsite or overnight then I'd do it in civilian clothes.

No sense in calling attention to yourself (in either a good or a bad way). No need to risk spilling coffee all over your whites... or, as is far more common, having others splash/spill something on you or step on your shoes.
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Old 05-29-2011, 02:05 PM   #4
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Depends on the threat level - we live in Germany and when the two young airmen got shot at Frankfurt, we were mandated to commute sans uniform. In general, they frown upon 'commuting on public transport in unifom' as it is a force protection issue.

My husband keeps his uniforms at work and changes there - I know other colleagues who did the same. I commute with uniform driving my own car, but would take off the top shirt (T-shirt is underneath), thereby minimizing immediate identification of my situation.

I am Air Force, so don't have issues with *WHITE* uniforms - ick. ;-)
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Old 05-29-2011, 04:23 PM   #5
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Air Force here, too. I had an office in the US Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I kept my uniform. We always commuted in civilian clothes. When I had official business at Brazilian Air Force offices, I was required to go in an official car with a driver who would drop me off at the door and wait for me, even if it was only a block or two. This wasn't a SOFA requirement, but rather the policy of our ambassador, who has absolute say over such things in most countries.
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Old 05-29-2011, 04:26 PM   #6
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Thanks a lot for all the responses. Much appreciated.
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Old 05-30-2011, 01:02 AM   #7
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I am Air Force, so don't have issues with *WHITE* uniforms - ick. ;-)
As a brand shiny-new ensign, one day I went to the military exchange in my brand shiny-new whites, cover and all.

While I was standing in line, a three-year-old near the front noticed me. She turned around to face me, her eyes got really big, and in a huge three-year-old's voice she squealed to the whole exchange:
"LOOK, DADDY, ICE CREAM!!!"

I was really happy when the Good Humor brand faded away...
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Old 05-30-2011, 07:03 AM   #8
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That's no worse than us AF types being mistaken for bus drivers.
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Old 05-30-2011, 11:51 AM   #9
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That's no worse than us AF types being mistaken for bus drivers.
... and mail carriers!

I think I'm beginning to understand why the services are moving to cammies & coveralls.

Of course this still doesn't explain the "digiblues" travesty.
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Old 05-30-2011, 11:57 AM   #10
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... and mail carriers!

I think I'm beginning to understand why the services are moving to cammies & coveralls.

Of course this still doesn't explain the "digiblues" travesty.
Good Humor Man, don't you mean aquaflage?

Hey, the Air Force did the stripes on our sleeves near the hand for awhile, then went back to only rank on shoulders - I got mistaken for an airline pilot once - unfortunately, the person asking me the question didn't understand the difference between the airlines and the Air Force.....hmmmm. And these people vote......
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Old 05-30-2011, 01:47 PM   #11
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Good Humor Man, don't you mean aquaflage?
So when they fall overboard, they're harder to find?

I got through the majority of my career on coveralls and sneakers. I spent quite a bit of it with unauthorized grooming standards, too. How hard could it be to simplify the uniform regulations?

A few years back one of the PACOM admirals got so disgusted by the desert cammies, woodland cammies, chocolate-chip cammies, and so forth that he banned them all from the building and made the services wear their dress uniforms.

It quickly became evident who'd been staying in shape and who'd merely been buying bigger cammie uniforms...

The one bright spot in this entire controversy is that no one seems to ever make fun of Marine Corps uniforms. Maybe that's because none of the teasers have survived?
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Old 05-30-2011, 03:01 PM   #12
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BLUF: No uniforms out in town in London.

When the aircraft carrier pulled in to England, my squadron was given Shore Patrol duty. One of the first things they told us was to watch out for petty criminals. A couple of officers wearing their whites had their hats stolen, and some of the drunken Brits tried to pick fights with a few guys in uniform.

While I was at Staff College a few years ago, we did a joint project with a bunch of UK Army officers. They said they don't EVER wear uniforms off the base at home, because the British public has a strong anti-military sentiment, and they could be attacked. Very different than here in the U.S.
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Old 05-30-2011, 03:20 PM   #13
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.... because the British public has a strong anti-military sentiment, and they could be attacked. Very different than here in the U.S.
Well, if you went to college and did ROTC in the late 70s-early 80s, there was that same sentiment - don't wear uniform on campus (from experience).
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