Army Soldiers in Hot Climates Plead for Right to Bare Arms

Monday, 07 Jul 2014 02:44 PM

By John Blosser

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To roll or not to roll – that is the U.S. Army’s question.

Soldiers facing hot summer weather in duty stations from Iraq and Afghanistan to Fort Polk, Louisiana, are agitating to be allowed to roll their sleeves above their elbows to make it easier to handle the scorching rays of the sun.

But while Marines are allowed to roll their sleeves, under certain restrictions, Army regulations still say no, the Army Times reports.

When the Army changed its uniforms from the BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) to the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) in 2005, regulations stated that "sleeves will be worn down at all times, and not rolled or cuffed."

However, like Spec. Milt Perkins, 26, an operating room specialist for a combat support hospital at Fort Polk, told the Times, "I sweat every day when I walk to work. You get sticky.

"When it gets hot in Louisiana, we should be able to roll up our sleeves."

Perkins is just one of dozens of GIs who have griped on social media or to Army Times about the no-roll regulations. Pfc. Ian Strutt-Kist, 19, noted that when digging foxholes, "If dirt gets on your forearms under your jacket and you’re sweaty, it basically becomes mud up your sleeve and it is very uncomfortable."

The Army gives several reasons for the uniform standard. Rolled-down sleeves can help protect soldiers against skin cancer, sunburn, and flash burns from explosives, as well as malaria, which sidelined 30 troops in Afghanistan in 2013, and other bites, which can cause Leishmaniasis, dengue fever, and arthropod-borne hemorrhagic fevers.

The Marines traditionally have adopted a "sun’s out, guns out" policy on sleeves, except for a period from 2011 until February, when it was reversed by Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, who told the Army Times, "It was a visceral thing for Marines. And there was only one person who could change it. And it was me."

Marines now undergo special training in how to properly roll their sleeves, and Marine Pfc. Nikolai White said, "It shows that we're going back to our original traditions."

The Army enlistment website says the Army is considering allowing GIs to roll their sleeves if unit commanders allow it, providing the rolling does not cover patches, be no higher than three inches above the elbow and not reveal arm tattoos.

However, Sgt. Maj. Doug Maddi, senior enlisted adviser in the Army equipment office, told Army Times the "engineering of the uniform makes it difficult to roll the sleeves" because of Velcro sleeve pockets.

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