Abiding by regulations that govern the wear and care of a military uniform are a staple of any military service member’s daily routine. As military spouses, it’s common for us to get pulled into the fray, whether it’s picking up a freshly pressed dress uniform, running a pair of cammies to the tailor for a new name tape or helping to locate a missing cover.
And while we may be able to eyeball placement of ribbons or help research the regulations, it is easy to forget that there are rules our spouses must abide by while in uniform, even if we are with them.
So for those of you who are new to this regulation-driven life or as a reminder to those of us who have been around for a while, here are the 5 key “in uniform” rules to remember:
Right Hand Free
To ensure a salute can be rendered when appropriate, service members generally try to keep their right hand free at all times.
As such, carrying things like umbrellas and bags have special rules. The rules for each service differ slightly, but there are provisions for the use of umbrellas while in dress or mess uniforms. The umbrella must be all black and feature no label or branding.
The same is true for bags and backpacks – all black and feature no significant or distinctive branding and there are varying rules about size and how the bag must be carried.
Military exchanges often carry items that meet regulation requirements for these items.
As much as seeing our service member in uniform might light a particular romantic fire, public displays of affection while in uniform are not allowed.
There are, of course, exceptions (aren’t there always?) for going-away and homecoming events. Weddings are another exception.
Hand-holding, hugging and kissing are generally not allowed while in uniform.
Does that mean you shouldn’t kiss your spouse goodbye if they are leaving the house and in uniform? No, but don’t let the moment evolve into a make-out session on the front porch.
Remember that while in uniform, service members are expected to maintain military decorum and bearing. It’s one of the hardest rules not to break, but an important one to remember.
While Walking You May Not…
Service members are also forbidden from eating, drinking, smoking, or wearing headphones or ear buds while walking while in uniform. As you might imagine, it would be pretty hard to render a salute and offer a respectful greeting while stuffing your face.
There are also safety considerations behind these regulations. Rules vary slightly by service, but if you want to meet up for lunch, make sure you find a place to sit and eat.
Most military installations have designated smoking areas and service members may be permitted to wear earbuds/headphones while in the PT uniform, but make sure you check your service regulations and any further guidance issued by your installation.
What About the Kids?
Care of children while in uniform enters into a bit of a gray area as far as military regulations are concerned.
For example, there are no regulations for any service that govern whether or not breastfeeding is allowed while in uniform. However, many argue that it is against regulations for blouses to be unbuttoned or undershirts to be untucked, thereby making it impossible to breastfeed without being out of regs.
However, many services and installations offer private rooms that mothers may use for breastfeeding or pumping. When in doubt, check with unit leadership and plan appropriately.
Baby slings or diaper bags are not authorized for use while in uniform and an argument can be made that carrying a child constitutes a PDA. Again, check for specific guidance issued by your particular service and try to err on the side of caution. A baby sling might not be authorized, but a stroller or baby carrier could be used instead.
Can I borrow…?
It’s hard not to want to borrow parts and pieces of the military uniform as a way to feel closer to a spouse or demonstrate your commitment and pride in their service.
However, unauthorized wear of an official uniform is against the rules. This includes patches, unit insignias, ribbons, rank, covers and PT uniforms.
It may even include uniforms that are no longer considered official. And it includes uniforms as Halloween costumes too.
There are plenty of non-uniform options that can still proclaim your pride. I won’t say I’ve never donned one of my husband’s old PT shirts while he’s been away on a deployment, but if you are going to do it, refrain from taking pictures and don’t wear it out of the house.