Temperatures around Phoenix often stretch beyond 110 degrees during the summer months. That heat has forced Airmen at Luke Air Force Base to develop ingenious ways at cooling down. Some of these include water mist sprayers on the top of outdoor break areas and shifting work schedules so each Airman is outside for a shorter period of time.
Now they have another tool in their arsenal.
The lightweight, Rip-stop Airman Battle Uniform arrived at Lukeâ€™s Military Clothing Sales store the first week of June.
â€œIt was a surprise to us because we placed our order the last week of May and expected them to arrive at the end of July,â€ said Susan Davis, Luke Military Clothing Sales branch manager. â€œTen days after we put our order in, the uniforms arrived.â€
Staff Sgt. Derrick Duncan bought his new uniforms the day they landed on the shelves at Military Clothing Sales on base.
â€œMy first reaction was relief,â€ said Duncan, 607th Air Control Squadron Ground Radar Systems journeyman. â€œThe uniform adds an extra level of comfort especially when I am working outside. When itâ€™s 114 degrees outside at two oâ€™clock, itâ€™s nice not to be wearing a uniform that is so heavy and keeps in so much heat.â€
The heavier-weight ABU is still authorized for everyday wear, so thereâ€™s no need for Airmen who have serviceable utility uniforms to purchase the lighter uniform. However, if the first monthâ€™s sales are any indication, Airmen say paying for the lighter uniform is worth it.
â€œWeâ€™ve seen customers spend $200 to $300 each on the uniform,â€ Davis said. â€œIt has almost doubled the storeâ€™s sales when you consider all the sewing, name tags and other purchases. Most of that increase is attributed to the new uniform.â€
Davis said during the first couple weeks after they got the uniform, the store received 30 to 40 calls a day asking if they had received a shipment and if it had certain sizes.
â€œSoon after we got the uniforms, I went up to the third floor of the parking garage one day during early morning PT and said, â€˜We have the new ABUs.â€™ They were tripping over themselves to come in here and get it,â€ Davis said. With a laugh she said, â€œHow is a uniform drawing all this excitement? But they love it. It feels good, itâ€™s much lighter. They come in and go, â€˜Weâ€™ve been waiting for these to come out forever.â€™â€
Thereâ€™s a good reason why Airmen may have run into the store too.
Clothing sales cannot reserve uniforms for anyone and canâ€™t transfer them to another base unless the base is on the initial release list. The store receives shipments with new uniforms about three times a week, but doesnâ€™t know what sizes theyâ€™ll have until the shipment arrives, according to Davis.
â€œWe canâ€™t hold sizes, because if we hold them for one, weâ€™d have to do it for everyone and weâ€™d have nothing on the shelves,â€ Davis said. â€œAirmen can also visit http://www.shopmyexchange.com and buy the uniform online. Thatâ€™s the exchangeâ€™s official Web page and what they buy on that site will be the exact same uniform we sell in the store.â€
Airmen going on local temporary duty assignments may be able to find the lightweight ABU in their sizes at the other bases on the initial release list. Some of those local bases include Davis-Monthan AFB and Nellis AFB, Nev. Regionally; all three bases in New Mexico are also on the list.
According to data obtained by the 56th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight, the highest temperature reached at Luke last year was 115 degrees. That figure occurred in July and August. As of June 28, 2012, the high temperature has already hit 113.
â€œThe new ABU is very nice,â€ Duncan said. â€œFor those who have been in long enough to remember the summer weight Battle Dress Uniforms, this new uniform is exactly the same. It is extremely comfortable and at Luke you can probably wear it for nine months out of the year.â€