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Soldiers demand to roll sleeves, but can’t due to regulations

Marine Cpl. Jorge Rodriguez on patrol with cuffed sleeves. Marjah, Afghanistan 2010. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)

Some in the U.S. Army just want to show a little skin. Soldiers in the heat of the summer want to roll their sleeves but cannot due to current regulations the Army Times reports.

While other services are currently allowed to roll their sleeves, those in the Army have not been able to since 2005 after it changed uniforms from the old Battle Dress Uniform to the Army Combat Uniform.

When the ACU was released, then-Army chief of staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker stated that with the new uniform the “sleeves will be worn down at all times, and not rolled or cuffed.”

Unrolled sleeves are commonplace in combat zones and harsh environments as the fabric protects the wearer from sunburn, bugs and the glare of senior enlisted personnel.

Yet, for those in garrison, rolled sleeves allow for some much welcomed ventilation and the chance to show off whatever terrible tattoo you paid too much for after you graduated basic training.

“I sweat every day when I walk to work,” Spc. Milt Perkins, a 26-year-old operating room specialist for a combat support hospital told the Army Times. “When it’s hot in Louisiana, we should be able to roll up our sleeves.”

The Marine Corps gained some notoriety in 2011 when Commandant General James Amos put the kibosh on sleeve rolling, a move that enraged both Marines young and old.

This past March, Amos lifted the sleeve rolling ban to thunderous applause. Marines rejoiced, but those unaware of the custom were quickly treated to the harsh reality that is the tenuous art of sleeve rolling.

To many in the Marine Corps, how one’s sleeves look is an indicator of performance as a Marine. Subpar sleeve rolling also known as “Gunny Rolls” (a homage to gunnery sergeants that, after decades in the Marines, usually stop caring about their sleeve rolling skills) indicates that a Marine is lazy, while crisp, well-rolled sleeves indicates the opposite.

The art of sleeve rolling is just one more thing the Army would have to incorporate into its training schedule, but even still, the ACU was never built to have rolled sleeves as it has Velcro pockets on the forearms as well as pen pockets for easy access to writing utensils.

Sleeve rolling has a long and storied history within the armed services, with a variety of regulations popping up over the years. But as regulations come and go, the heat of combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan have remained a constant.

In such rugged terrain, regulations are usually discarded post-haste and combat is conducted often-times in t-shirts, undergarments and sometimes even Santa Claus costumes.


Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a staff writer and a former Marine infantryman.



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Thomas Gibbons-Neff · July 4, 2014

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