Fort Bliss approves wear of boonie caps, military-wide jealousy ensues

by Vern Evans

Sunburned necks and scorched ears no longer. Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, are now authorized to wear the iconically fashionable and functional “boonie cap” around the installation, inciting in the process the envy of all service members bearing the burden of exposed napes.

Following recent chatter online about whether the cover is within installation regs, a spokesperson from the 1st Armored Division confirmed to Military Times that the commanding general of the installation and division, Maj. Gen. James P. Isenhower III, approved of the headwear’s use months ago — on Oct. 31, 2023.

In a climate in which nearly all parts of a soldier’s service life and uniform are tightly regulated, allowing use of the military’s very own sun hat — commonly referred to as “the boonie cap” (or cover, for the Marines out there) — demonstrates a renewed level of attention from Army leadership to the needs and wants of the rank and file.

“Fort Bliss is now gonna be the new drip gods and rizz kings of the army,” one drip correspondent wrote on the unofficial Army Reddit.

Though some may consider the cap a style faux pas, practically, the headgear offers protection from the natural environment, including the sweltering solar rays unique to El Paso, Texas.

“MG Isenhower authorized soldiers to wear sun hats because the sun hat mitigates the harmful effects of overexposure to the sun,” the division spokesperson said, adding that the hat traces its history to the Vietnam War era.

The move was praised by several online as the right decision.

“Can confirm [B]liss get something in the neighborhood of 300+ BRIGHT sunshine days with hardly any cloud coverage! Hell yeah [I]ronsides,” another shade enthusiast wrote on Reddit.

The roundish cover, resembling a Gilligan’s Island–esque bucket hat, features a drawstring that keeps it securely on the wearer’s head. It also can keep excessive rain or other elements out of the eyes.

It still flops, however, in comparison to other exemplary sun-protectors, including — but not limited to — the trooper’s ever-enlarging hat from “Scary Movie 3,” Smalls’ titanic-brimmed baseball cap in “The Sandlot,” or the big ol’ cowboy hat worn by none other than Lloyd Christmas in “Dumb and Dumber.”

The cap’s wear guidance, according to the division spokesperson, is as follows:

  • Only organizational clothing and military equipment, or OCIE, and OCIE-issued sun hats are authorized for wear. Commercial and lookalike hats are not permitted.
  • The hat is not to be worn in formation unless all personnel are wearing it.
  • The hat can be worn anywhere on the Fort Bliss installation except indoors.
  • The hat is authorized for wear by all Fort Bliss permanent party members and those assigned to Fort Bliss on temporary status, including visitors.
  • Sun hats can be the primary headgear during unit outdoor ceremonies if all personnel wear them; no combination of sun hats and patrol caps is allowed.
  • Temperature is not a determining factor in wearing the sun hat.
  • The hat will be worn on top of the head, so the web band creates a straight line around the head, and parallel to the ground.
  • The sun hat is to be worn so that no hair is visible on the forehead beneath the hat.
  • The drawstring can be worn under the chin, drawn snugly using the cord fastener to the bottom of the chin, around the back of the head and neck, and drawn snugly to the back or tucked inside of the hat.
  • The sun hat will not be worn rolled, formed, shaped, blocked, or with an upturned brim.
  • Rank insignia, at minimum, must be pinned on or sewn on. The rank is worn centered on the front of the hat, left to right, and top and bottom.
  • Nametape will not be sewn on the sun hat.

Military Times Managing Editor, Army Times Editor James Clark contributed to this report.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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