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Industry groups work to save the U.S. Navy Pea Coat

 

September 7, 2018



Havre Daily News staff

Industry groups are working to save a historic tradition in the U.S. Navy.

As of Oct. 1, the Navy plans to make the pea coat an optional component of enlisted sailors’ seabags, replaced by the synthetic cold weather parka as the mandatory outerwear.

The Navy cites a desire to reduce budget and uniform requirements as its primary reason for making the change, but this reduction in cost for the Navy comes at a price, wool and textile industry representatives say.

For more than a century, the pea coat has been a staple in the seabags of new enlisted sailors and is one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of the U.S. Navy. Its natural wool construction is virtually impervious to cold, making it ideal for harsh winter climates, and when adorned with Navy insignia, makes a statement about a special and valued group of patriots, representatives of the American Sheep Industry and the U.S. textile industry said in a release.

They add that the loss extends beyond the Navy. The American woolen textile industry — centered in New England, with small to medium businesses in the chain throughout the United States —is likely to be hard hit by this change, as would wool producers. The shift away from the pea coat could mean millions of dollars in lost revenue and the potential loss of thousands of jobs.

People who would like the Navy to reconsider this change can make their voice heard by signing the petition online at http://savethenavypeacoat.com/. The site also includes more information about the pea coat and its tradition in the Navy.

The wool pea coat has long been a part of the Navy uniform, and is not just a symbol of the strong, rugged sailor, but has also become a timeless fashion statement and pop icon. In a 2017 survey of 3,500 people, 81 percent agreed that the pea coat is an important part of Navy heritage, showing that recruits, active duty and veterans cherish this symbol of their service.

In 2017, the House Armed Services Committee questioned the Navy’s decision to retire the pea coat, saying it was, “concerned this decision was made without considering upgrades or alternatives to the traditional pea coat or an impact to the nation’s domestic textile industrial base.”

As one Navy veteran put it, “The Navy pea coat has been in the uniform bag for a very long time and is one of the basic clothing accessories for the well-dressed Navy sailor,” a Navy sailor said. “The pea coat is a ‘dress’ uniform for inclement weather and the parka is not only clearly not a dress uniform but is treading down the path of loss of pride in our service.”

 

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