MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
With all the stories coming out of Washington these days, you might have missed this one, but it is big - the Marine Corps has revised its umbrella policy. That's right, all Marines can now carry a, quote, "all black, collapsible umbrella during inclement weather with the service and dress blue uniforms." Now, for some Marines, this is welcome news; for others, carrying an umbrella might not look tough.
NPR's Tom Bowman is here to fill us in. Hi, Tom.
TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: I'm tempted to ask where you fall, but I won't put you on the spot quite yet.
KELLY: Why this change? Why now?
BOWMAN: Well, Mary Louise, the Marine Corps Uniform Board started looking into this back in the spring, took comments from Marines, approved it. The top Marine officer, General Dave Berger, just signed off on it. Now, before he signed off on it, female Marines could use umbrellas while wearing service and dress blue uniforms. What's new here is that male Marines can now use this regulation black, collapsible umbrella. And all other services, male and female, from the Navy, Army and Air Force had been allowed to use an umbrella for years now.
KELLY: All right. So now that male Marines enjoy full umbrella rights - but there's a qualifier here. They can wear it with service uniform, dress uniform. But not everywhere, not out in the field?
BOWMAN: Right, definitely not in the field. No military personnel from any service are allowed to use an umbrella out in the field. And having spent a lot of time with Marines in the field in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marines, I can tell you, just seem to thrive on bad conditions - heat, snow and rain.
BOWMAN: And they've been known to joke, when it's pouring out - it's a good thing we're amphibious.
KELLY: I mentioned reaction has been mixed. What are you hearing?
BOWMAN: Well, there's a lot of chatter on social media, as you might imagine, for and against. I've picked up comments from both active and retired Marines I know. Some said they don't care. One told me he would never use an umbrella. And we reached out to retired Marine Colonel Mark Caballero (ph), who just doesn't like the picture of a Marine with an umbrella. Let's listen.
MARK CABALLERO: Change is tough, and the idea of seeing young Marines walking around with an umbrella just doesn't fit my ideal of what a Marine ought to look like.
BOWMAN: But then former Marine Sergeant Benjamin Dejarnette (ph) said having an umbrella will make sure a uniform looks good in bad weather.
BENJAMIN DEJARNETTE: The dress blue uniform is a very respected uniform. I think it's completely fine.
BOWMAN: So younger Marines like Dejarnette seem OK with it compared to the old guard, many of whom are grumbling, holding an umbrella just doesn't make Marines look tough. They say, hey, we have raincoats; we don't need an umbrella.
KELLY: (Laughter) OK. I'm - as a civilian - forgive me for saying this - seems like kind of a big to-do over a small umbrella. But they take this really seriously; I can hear it.
BOWMAN: They do, right. Change is taken very seriously by the military, where tradition is important. Years ago, the Air Force adopted a new uniform. There were complaints they now look too much like airline pilots. And the Army adopted a black beret that previously was only used by the Army's elite infantry force of Rangers; a lot of complaints about that as well.
KELLY: This goes into effect when - right away?
BOWMAN: Immediately. Yes, it does. And it's important to note, Mary Louise, the Marine Corps birthday is on Sunday, November 10. There are many Marine Corps balls around the country in dress blue uniforms. Interesting to see if the weather holds up (laughter) and if any marine shows up with an umbrella.
KELLY: Is spotted with an umbrella. We shall hope for rain to test that. That's NPR defense correspondent Tom Bowman. Thank you, Tom.
BOWMAN: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UMBRELLA")
RIHANNA: (Singing) Because when the sun shines, we'll shine together. Told you I'll be here forever; said I'll always be your friend. Took an oath that I'm going to stick it out till the end. Now that it's raining more than ever, know that we'll still have each other. You can stand under my umbrella. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.