Putting on the greens
It was more than 61 years ago that I found myself wandering through a cavernous warehouse while several self-important men threw articles of clothing at me. This took place during my first days at the U.S. Army Reception Center, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. We recruits were unceremoniously receiving the clothes we would be wearing during our time as soldiers.
Everything from underwear and socks to hats and fatigues came flying my way. No one took the time to ask size. A kid next to me remarked that he wore medium instead of small and was tossed everything in large.
That all changed when we got down to the area where the dress green “Class A” uniforms were being issued. Cloth measuring tapes were carefully manned by decidedly more dedicated workers as they took our individual measurements.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the dark green color of the jacket and pants were the same color of uniforms worn by rifle units during the Revolutionary War.
The color of the dress uniforms meant little to us. It was their classic look that drove home the message that we were finally in the Army. The four brass buttons on the jacket, the distinctive lapels, the matching pants with poplin long-sleeved shirt and bold black tie – they all combined to make a classy uniform any new soldier would be proud to wear.
We soon learned that we wouldn’t wear our Class A uniform often. That was only for special occasions. Most of the time the uniform just hung in the metal locker next to our bed. It was that way throughout the next six years of active duty and reserve training. In fact, that uniform is still on a hanger in a basement closet. I doubt the pants still fit.
That’s no longer a moot point. Six years ago the Army ruled that the “Green Class As” is no longer permitted for official wear.
It’s been 67 years since the uniform was first introduced. Guess that made it a relatively new look when I first donned mine.
Thinking back to those days, I can’t help but remember sitting on a footlocker with a cotton swab and a can of Brasso polishing the brass lapel insignias and the brass belt buckle that were part of the ensemble. It seemed to be a never-ending job.
Which brings me to my first actual wearing of the greens. The powers-that-be ruling over our basic training company decided it would be both fitting and appropriate that we unveil our dress green uniform on our first payday.
Sgt. Benrostro, our basic training platoon sergeant, personally inspected each member of our platoon as we stood in line for the auspicious event. He stood within inches in front of me, his nose and mine nearly touching before stepping back. His eyes started at my “fly saucer cap” and slowly absorbed my entire body to the tips of my highly-polished low-quarter black shoes. He noted a slight fingerprint smudge on my left brass label insignia and moved on to the next soldier.
As I previously mentioned, that was a long, long time ago. Those old dress greens are still pretty much like new. They haven’t seen much action and the chances are they won’t ever see much. However, I think I will try to get into them one more time. When I do I’m going to have my wife Sharon do a Sgt. Benrostro inspection. Hope I pass. If I don’t I’ll probably be doing dishes for the unforeseeable future.