The Air Force updated the policy governing uniform wear Jan. 17, with a goal of not financially burdening Airmen.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark. A. Welsh III approved several updates to Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Air Force Dress and Appearance, with many of the changes coming directly from Airmen.
During the past year, Welsh prompted Airmen to make their voice heard through the Every Dollar Counts campaign, held last spring, and suggestions made directly to him during base visits or comments to the uniform survey board itself.
“The policy changes revolve around three areas,” said Col. Patrick Doherty, Director of Air Force Services, who has oversight of the uniforms and awards and recognition branch. “The first area of policy changes is focused on heritage, team building, esprit de corps and unit pride.
The second is recognizing and valuing Airmen’s experiences, qualifications and job performance, allowing Airmen to wear what they have earned. The last area is a group of common sense approach inputs from Airmen in the field that senior leaders thought were great ideas.”
There are dozens of updates to the AFI, including the following:
Morale T-shirts/patches representing individual squadrons that were worn in the past to increase unit pride are now authorized to wear on Fridays. Squadron color T-shirts may be worn with the ABU or flight suit when in-garrison or on-station during unit temporary duty assignments and contingency deployments. Shirts must be one color throughout the squadron, and may have only a small squadron patch over the left chest. Wing Commanders can authorize personnel from different units to wear the same color T-shirts to facilitate esprit de corps and team building.
For example, maintainers, life support personnel and flight doctors are allowed to wear the color T-shirt of the flying squadron they support. Also, authorized is the in-garrison Friday wear of morale patches and nametags that have tasteful nicknames or call signs on flight suits. Unit commanders have approval authority for morale patches and nametag naming conventions.
Earned Air Force and other services’ badges are authorized to wear, but only the command insignia pin is mandatory. This reverses a previous decision to prohibit wear of qualification badges and various patches on ABUs, to eliminate the need to remove and replace badges for deployment or permanent change of duty station moves.
In recent years, Airmen deployed to Afghanistan wore the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern. The OCP is flame retardant, treated with insect repellant and also used by the Army. Following this evolution, the ABU has become primarily an in-garrison uniform, according to Air Force senior leaders.
“The increased wear of the ABU in-garrison, , coupled with Airmen’s long-term desires to wear the qualification badges and the command insignia they have earned, makes authorized wear on the ABU a logical step,” said Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.
A list and examples of all newly approved badges authorized for wear on the ABU is located in attachment five of AFI 36-2903.
The Air Force physical training uniform no longer has color restrictions for athletic shoes. Airmen are now also authorized to wear black socks with their athletic shoes.
Cell phones no longer have to be black, as long as they’re not worn on the uniform or attached to a purse.
Changes came directly from the field and major commands, said Cox.
“The changes are the result of months of the Chief of Staff listening to what Airmen had to say about ABUs and other uniform wear policies,” Cox said.
Airmen can expect to find the optional badges on the AAFES website by mid-July to early August. The commander’s insignia pin will be mandatory once the cloth pins go on sale at AAFES.