Scru­tiny of Army dress uni­form comes into view at in­quiry hear­ing

Orlando Sentinel - - NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — In his open­ing re­marks at the impeachmen­t hear­ing Tues­day, Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vind­man ca­su­ally men­tioned the other part of Wash­ing­ton’s in­tense fo­cus.

“The uni­form I wear to­day is of the U.S. Army,” said Vind­man, the top Ukraine ex­pert on the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil who raised alarms over whether Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump asked Ukraine for po­lit­i­cal help in ex­change for mil­i­tary aid.

But Vind­man and his dress uni­form — adorned with a Pur­ple Heart, Ranger Tab and Com­bat In­fantry Badge — has be­come a ci­pher for the impeachmen­t pro­ceed­ings it­self, where crit­ics have sug­gested it’s to grand­stand as a mem­ber of a re­spected pro­fes­sion, while oth­ers im­ply his bona fides are a shield for Democrats.

Ac­tive-duty ser­vice mem­bers rou­tinely wear full dress uni­forms to tes­tify on Capi­tol Hill. But se­cu­rity ex­perts say the scru­tiny of

Vind­man’s uni­form has be­come an­other data point in the politi­ciza­tion of the space be­tween civil so­ci­ety and the mil­i­tary.

The Army’s guide­lines for ap­pear­ance stan­dards, Ark. 670-1, says all per­son­nel “will wear an Army uni­form when on duty, un­less granted an ex­cep­tion by the com­man­der to wear civil­ian clothes.”

“Most re­ac­tions to it im­ply a choice where there is not one. Com­men­ta­tors are pro­ject­ing their own feel­ings with­out un­der­stand­ing mil­i­tary reg­u­la­tions, a pretty fre­quent oc­cur­rence in civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions,” said Loren DeJonge Schul­man, a for­mer Obama de­fense of­fi­cial who ad­vised na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Su­san E. Rice.

Trump men­tioned Vind­man in a Cabi­net meet­ing dur­ing the hear­ing in an ap­par­ent swipe at his dress se­lec­tion. “I never saw the man, I un­der­stand now he wears his uni­form when he goes in,” Trump said.

Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials as­signed to the NSC typ­i­cally wear for­mal civil­ian clothes on a coun­cil blended with many other agency rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said Steve Miska, a re­tired Army colonel who served on a ro­ta­tion at the NSC in 2011.

How­ever, wear­ing a dress uni­form dur­ing tes­ti­mony is “prob­a­bly ap­pro­pri­ate” for Vind­man, he said. “That’s your dress at­tire ex­pected for that level of for­mal­ity.”

Dur­ing the tes­ti­mony, Rep. Chris Ste­wart, R-Utah, led an at­tack on Vind­man’s choice of uni­form, not­ing that he wears a suit, not a dress uni­form, while at the White House. The uni­form is a “great re­minder of your ser­vice,” Ste­wart said, pro­vid­ing back­handed com­pli­ments while press­ing Vind­man on his re­quest to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., to call him by his rank, rather than “Mr. Vind­man.”

“Do you al­ways in­sist on civil­ians call­ing you by your rank?” Ste­wart said.

“The at­tacks I’ve had in the press, (on) Twit­ter have kind of ... marginal­ized me as a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer,” Vind­man replied.

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