Navy surface warfare officers can now stand watch in a new leather jackets approved specifically for their community, the service announced Thursday.
A soon-to-be-issued leather jacket has been approved for the SWO community, Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr., deputy chief of naval operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, wrote in a service-wide Navy administrative message.
The jacket will be made of black leather with a front zipper, knit cuffs and waistband, and a pointed collar. The fully lined jacket will have two patch pockets with flaps on the front and a name patch with Velcro fastener tape on the left side of the chest.
Like the bomber jacket worn by aviators, the new uniform item is meant to build esprit de corps and reflect the warfighter expertise that comes with earning a SWO pin, a Navy statement provided to Military.com says.
"The Surface Warfare community has a long-standing history of excellence, and a uniquely identifiable item is one way to signify the outstanding achievement and professionalism of our Surface Warfare Officers," Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces, said in the statement. "Those who wear the jacket will be easily identified as a part of a long lineage of professional ship drivers and maritime warfighters."
The new jacket will be available for issue and wear starting in June. The phased issuance will continue through 2021.
Active-duty, Reserve and full-time support SWOs are authorized to wear the jacket.
The move follows several steps service leaders have taken to reform the surface-warfare community following a pair of deadly 2017 ship collisions. In 2018, the Navy clamped down on who is eligible to earn a SWO pin, limiting it to only those in line to command ships.
The new leather jacket will be considered organizational clothing, so will mostly be worn at sea. Ashore, SWOs will be allowed to wear it as an optional outer garment only with their service uniforms.
The jacket is to be worn "squarely on the shoulders, zipped three-fourths of the way up, collar down and sleeves fully extended but will not extend beyond the lower knuckle of the thumb," according to the NavAdmin. Commanding officers will decide whether the coat will be allowed during General Quarters, when crew members are to man their battle stations, or damage-control evaluations, the message adds.
Those who qualify for the leather jacket will be approved to wear it even after leaving the fleet. If officers separate or retire under honorable conditions, they'll be allowed to sport the jacket they get while on active duty.
That applies only to those who qualify for the jacket now, though. The leather jacket will not be issued to retired SWOs, the NavAdmin states.