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Uniform changes address current, near-term needs: service seeks improvements in functionality, protection, comfort.

The results of the latest uniform board focused on policies that improve existing uniforms rather than introducing new items to wear.

"We remain committed to fix, improve and upgrade uniforms in our current inventory," said Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services and chairman of the 98th Virtual Uniform Board. "Our goal is to provide the optimal uniform and equipment to Airmen in order to allow them to best carry out their mission."

General Newton announced the uniform board results June 10.

Following is a snapshot of changes approved by the board. Follow-on messages will be released that contain detailed guidance and instructions. All information will be incorporated into Air Force Instruction 36-2903.


* Effective Oct. 1, 2010, trousers on utility uniforms will be tucked into boots and given a bloused appearance. Tucking had previously been optional.

* The green fleece formerly worn only as the All-Purpose Environmental Clothing System liner is authorized Air Forcewide as an outer-wear garment. The addition of the name, rank and service designators to the green fleece when worn as an outer-wear garment is authorized.

* Airmen may use personal cellular telephones while in uniform and walking. Cell phones may be worn on either the left or right side; however, the cell phone must be a conservative color. Military customs and courtesies are required and take precedence. Talking on a phone is no excuse for not saluting. The wear of hands-free devices such as attachments worn on the ears is still prohibited.

* Enlisted chevrons will be worn on light-weight blue jacket sleeves instead of the metal rank insignias on the collar effective Jan. 1, 2010.

* The ends of boot laces must be tucked into boots. Wrapping the laces around boots is authorized.

* The length of the airman battle uniform lower leg pocket will increase by approximately 1/2 inch.

* Upper sleeve pockets are authorized on fire-resistant clothing authorized for the Central Command region.

* Airmen earning and awarded the Army Parachute Riggers badge are authorized permanent wear on all uniform combinations. For the airman battle uniform and the battle dress uniform, the badge will be blue. On the desert combat uniform, the approved color is brown.

* Wearing the black Army Air Assault Badge on the battle dress uniform is authorized upon graduation from Air Assault School.

* Organizational ball caps are not authorized to be attached to either lower leg cargo pocket on the BDU trousers.

The female ABU trouser fly buttons will be the same as on men's pants.

In addition to these new policies, other changes are in the works. Airmen describe the ABU as being too hot, so Air Force officials are planning to field a lighter-weight, more comfortable fabric for the ABU coat.

To further reduce weight, the improved ABU design will remove the inner coat liner and interior pockets. The lighter-weight ABU will replace the current ABU coat for both winter and summer wear. Prior to production, the Air Force Uniform Board staff will verify the fabric can be consistently manufactured to avoid color variation experienced with the initial ABU rollout. Projected availability date is summer 2010, and the improved ABU will be phased in as current inventories are exhausted.

Since introduction of the ABU, multiple variants of the sage green boots include standard issue, cold weather, hot weather, temperate weather, aircrew and steel toe, and each is certified and fielded to meet Airmen's needs.

However, Airmen working in maintenance, industrial and medical areas have reported difficulty in keeping the suede green boots clean. As an interim solution, General Newton recently issued a policy allowing commanders to authorize wear of black boots in specific industrial work areas.

The Air Force Uniform Office staff is investigating stain-resistant materials that facilitate boot care. The results of an initial test in March did not show marked improvement over the current design. As a follow-on effort, a second boot wear test is taking place this summer to evaluate alternative concepts from industry.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said if the follow-on test "doesn't work, this will be the last test, and we'll go back to something that does work (in industrial areas)."

Airmen's feedback directly helped lay the groundwork for significant improvements to the physical training gear. The new PT fabric received positive response from test participants, and General Schwartz has approved it for production.

After extensive prototype design testing, the following changes are on track for fielding new PT uniforms in September:

* The improved PT running suit redesign includes a thinner, more flexible fabric to address common complaints about fabric "noise" and streamlines the design by removing the collar hood and shoulder vents. Also, the improved design reduces bulk by decreasing the amount of fabric in the running jacket mid-section and pants lower leg. A new liner includes antimicrobial properties and will shed moisture at a faster rate than the current version.

* Improved PT shorts to be introduced this year feature a softer, more flexible fabric, side-pockets, increased inseam length and redesigned inner linen

* An improved PT shirt resembles the current short-sleeve shirt but will feature a lighter-weight, higher-performance fabric with moisture wicking properties and odor reduction.

* The Air Force has also authorized optional PT gear for wear. A new long-sleeve T-shirt and sweatshirt are now available for purchase through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. In addition, optional running shorts will be introduced this summer.


And finally, over the past several years, Air Force leaders considered replacing the current service dress coat with a design similar to the version worn in 1949 when Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold was chief of staff. Known as the "heritage coat," an evaluation was recently conducted to assess several prototype designs.

To keep the focus on near-term uniform needs, General Schwartz directed that work on the heritage coat be stopped. The complete project will be available to Air Force leaders should they deem implementation appropriate in the future.

(In formation for this article taken from Air Force News Service stories written by Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle, secretary of the Air Force public affairs office in Washington, D.C., and Col. Steve Gray of the 77th Aeronautical Systems Group Human Systems Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.)
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Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Aug 1, 2009
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