Engineman 2nd Class Shanice Floyd, a recruit division commander, ensures the proper fit of Seaman Recruit Megan Marte's white enlisted hat, or "Dixie cup," during uniform issue at Recruit Training Command. Marte was among the first female recruits to be issued the Dixie cup as part of the Navy's efforts for uniformity in service members' uniforms. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy/Sue Krawczyk
GREAT LAKES, Ill., April 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy issued its first "dixie cup" hats to female recruits this week as part of a new effort to acknowledge gender equality and establish consistency in sailors' uniforms branch-wide.
The women received the traditional white caps Tuesday at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, Recruit Training Command. It is the first time in the Navy's history that females have donned the iconic headwear.
The uniform changes were spurred by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in order to promote gender equality in the Navy, at least as far as uniform appearance.
The caps are known informally as "dixie cups" for their resemblance to the picnic-style disposable paper cups.
"This feels incredible as we are making a part of history," Seaman Recruit Madeleine Bohnert, of St. Louis, said. "It's really awesome how something as simple as our cover is so symbolic in regards to equality and the uniformity in the military. It's a sense of pride knowing that we are a part of getting the first Dixie cups."
Seaman Recruit Izzy Sanchez relieves her white enlisted hat, or "Dixie cup," during uniform issue at Recruit Training Command. Sanchez was among the first female recruits to be issued the Dixie cup as part of the Navy's efforts for uniformity in service members' uniforms. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy/Sue Krawczyk
"We're already part of a team and this just promotes it in a better way," Engineman 2nd Class Shanice Floyd, RDC, said. "Junior enlisted males and females already wear the same dress white uniform so this way when we get into the same dress blues uniform we'll look more as a unit."
The Alternative Combination Cover and current male combination cover for officers and chief petty officers can now be worn by both men and women in service dress uniforms, the Department of Defense said. All officers and chiefs will be required to wear them by Oct. 31.
"I am very excited to be one of the first females to be given the opportunity to wear the Dixie cup, and I believe we've come really far as a country and as a service," Seaman Recruit Maria Frazier said. "I think it's really beneficial because as we work side by side, we have to work as a team. For me, it's important that as we're working together, we look uniform so we can work in uniform."