By David McNallyMarch 18, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea - During Key Resolve 2008, some civilian employees donned the Army Combat Uniform and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their active-duty counterparts.
"A lot of Soldiers are just not accustomed to seeing a civilian in uniform," said U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Safety Officer Russell Obey. "You get a lot of raised eyebrows."
Obey was one of a handful of "emergency essential civilians" who agree to continue to serve during contingency operations. Other Army civilians will evacuate during noncombatant evacuation operations. EECs will stay behind and continue to work ... in uniform.
Wearing a uniform is nothing new to Russell Obey. He is a retired Army master sergeant, a former tanker and safety noncommissioned officer.
"This week I was in the Town House (food court) wearing my uniform, but my name and civilian identification were covered by my fleece," Obey said. "A young sergeant came up to me and started to go off about my beard."
Obey said he politely listened to the sergeant and even complimented him for trying to do his job; however, when Obey zipped down his fleece to reveal the civilian identification, the sergeant became apologetic.
"He did the right thing," Obey said. "I probably would have done the same thing if I had been in his position. I told him I was glad to see that NCOs are still out there enforcing the standards.
Civilians in a combat zone follow many of the same rules and regulations as Soldiers. But, the uniform regulation is different. Civilians do not fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Facial hair and longer hair are permitted for Army civilians in uniform. Combat patches and other badges are not authorized for wear by EECs.
Many EECs are former Soldiers. Dave Thomas is a retired noncommissioned officer and an EEC with USAG-Yongsan Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
"I think we owe it to the Soldiers to respect the uniform," he said. "We should blend in as much as possible."