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Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (Corps) Uniforms
Submitted by LT Kyle Lyons, Uniform Policy Coordinator,
Workforce Policy and Plans Division, Office of Commissioned Corps Force Management

Please note:
Any and all uniform questions can be sent electronically to phsccuniform@hhs.gov

Q:  While in uniform, may female officers carry designer purses or handbags, for example, a Louis Vuitton handbag?
A:  A female officer may wear any commercial brand purse as long as it meets the criteria set forth in policy (see http://dcp.psc.gov/eccis/documents/CCPM26_3_5.pdf).

Description: Women may wear civilian handbags while in uniform in the manner prescribed below:

The handbag must be of plain black, brown, or white grain leather or synthetic leather, rectangular in shape and designed with a flap. The color of the handbag will match the color of the shoes worn. Dimensions must be between 7˝ to 12 inches in width, 5˝ to 8 inches in height, and 2 to 3˝ inches in depth. Exotic materials such as eel, alligator or ostrich skin are not authorized. The handbag must not have any visible ornamentation, decorative stitching, embossed design, or manufacturer’s logo. The closure hardware will be brass-plated or gold-colored. If the flap has a closure, it must be a clasp (no buckles, zippers or string ties are allowed.) The strap will be of the same material as the purse and have a gold-colored or black-colored buckle. Handbags may be procured from commercial sources, provided that above criteria is followed.

Correct Wear: Carry over the left shoulder or forearm, placing the top of the handbag at waist level. 

Q:  I occasionally see officers of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service wearing the American Flag patch on the right shoulder of the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU). I know this was authorized for Hurricane Katrina, but is it still authorized for general wear or who is authorized to wear it? 
A:  According to Personnel Operations Memorandum 06-003, available at http://dcp.psc.gov/eccis/documents/POM06_003.pdf, only Corps officers assigned to the Department of Defense (DoD) organizational units are authorized to wear the American Flag patch, 1 13/16 inches high x 3˝ inches wide, reversed field, full color (gold border). The designated patch shall be worn over the right shoulder of the BDU utility coat and field jacket centered horizontally on the wearer’s right sleeve, ˝ inch below the shoulder seam.

Therefore, officers not assigned by official personnel orders to a DoD organization are not authorized to wear the American Flag patch on the BDUs.

Q:  I recently saw a picture of an officer wearing a combination cover and the ‘shield and eagle’ was silver, is this authorized? 
A:  According to current policy, the full size and miniature cap device is to be solid ‘gold’ in color. All parts of the anchor, caduceus, shield and eagle shall be gold in color. The other sea services wear a combination of silver and gold on their covers but not in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. It is also noted, if the cap device becomes soiled, tarnished or the gold has rubbed off, this item is no longer considered serviceable, therefore must be replaced.

Q:  I was attending a formal function in which an officer was wearing some unknown medals after the Association ‘medals’. He said they were from his service in the National Guard. Are these authorized?  
A:   Some awards issued from other uniformed services are allowed on the Public Health Service (PHS) uniform after they have been authorized and cleared by the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations; however, this does not mean every award issued or purchased is allowed for wear. Awards from active and reserve uniformed services, Federal agencies (Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Prisons) can be authorized on the uniform. State National Guard, organized State Militia or Naval services, Civil Air Patrol (CAP), U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) awards and badges are not authorized.

Q:  What is a mourning band or badge?
A:  A mourning badge or band is a length of black crepe, 3 inches wide and long enough to encircle the arm. It is worn on the left sleeve of the outer garment, halfway between the shoulder and the elbow. When a sword is worn with the Full Dress uniform, a mourning badge, which is 3 inches wide and 20 inches long, is knotted in the middle at the sword hilt. At military funerals, officers serving as pallbearers or attending in an official capacity wear a mourning badge. When attending in a non-official capacity or for civilian funerals, the mourning badge is worn at personal discretion (See http://dcp.psc.gov/eccis/documents/CCPM26_3_7.pdf). 

Q:  How is the optional PHS unit patch supposed to be oriented on the left sleeve of the BDUs? A:  The patch should be oriented so the “1798” is at the bottom and parallel to the floor.
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