NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The temperature has dropped overnight, and the Airman puts on his or her airman battle uniform, grabs his or her personal items and rushes for the door to head to work.
An icy cold breeze hits the Airman’s exposed skin and he or she immediately turns around to find his or her cold weather uniform items. Rummaging through his or her closet, he or she manages to find gloves and a sage green knit watch cap, but he or she is running out of time and fears he or she will be late for work. The Airman puts on his or her watch cap and gloves and runs out the door so he or she won’t be late for work.
Although the Airman may be able to better fight the cold weather on his or her way to work, he or she may not realize that his or her choice of uniform combination doesn’t meet the requirements spelled out in Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel.
Gloves and caps can only be worn in combination with an authorized cold weather outer garment like an All-Purpose Environmental Clothing, or APECs, jacket or sage green fleece.
AFI 36-2903 tells Airmen how to wear garments for the ABU, Service Dress Uniform, Physical Training Uniform and Improved PTU.
While wearing the ABU with outer garments including the APECS and the Sage Green Fleece Jacket, Airmen should be aware of what the AFI says.
The APECS can only be worn with the ABU and flight duty uniforms outdoors. The APECS must be zipped no lower than mid-point on the rank tab at all times. If the hood is not being worn it must be stowed away. Airmen may wear a green fleece liner under the APECS, but it must not be visible.
The sage green fleece jacket is only authorized when wearing the ABU and may be worn outdoors only.
However, local commanders have the authority to allow indoor wear of the sage green fleece jacket if the mission dictates the need, so Airmen must check to see if it’s authorized in their duty section.
The fleece must be zipped no lower than the top of the name tape and the collar will be folded over and resting on the shoulder, chest and back when the zipper is not completely zipped. Sleeves must be pushed all the way down and the bottom length of the garment will match as closely as possible to the bottom length of the ABU blouse.
Instead of wearing ABUs to work, an Airman is required to wear his or her service uniform to meet a quarterly award’s board but its 32F outside. The AFI has plenty of approved cold weather uniform combinations to keep the Airman warm.
When working in cold temperatures while wearing the service dress and service uniforms, Airmen may consider wearing outer garments including the pullover sweater, cardigan sweater or the lightweight blue jacket.
The pullover sweater may be worn under the lightweight blue jacket, topcoat or all-weather coat. The V-neck pullover sweater may be worn indoors or outdoors but cannot be exposed when wearing another outer garment. The sleeves of the pullover sweater may not be pushed up on the forearm. Wearing a tie tab underneath the pullover sweater is optional; however, installation commanders retain the option to have a tie-tab mandatory with this uniform item. Upon arriving at an installation, refer to specific base supplements to the AFI.
A blue cardigan sweater may also be worn under the lightweight blue jacket, the topcoat or the all-weather coat. Cuffed and un-cuffed sleeves are authorized for the cardigan sweater, and it can be worn indoors or outdoors. All buttons need to be fastened while outdoors, but while indoors, the cardigan sweater can be unbuttoned. Sleeves for the cardigan sweater may not be pushed up, and a tie tab worn with the service uniform underneath is optional.
When the sweater is worn with maternity uniforms, Airmen can choose to wear the sweater unbuttoned indoors and outdoors. The white cardigan sweater may be worn with the maternity jumper, maternity long sleeve and short sleeve blouses.
A lightweight blue jacket may only be worn over the service uniform when combined or not combined with the pullover or cardigan sweater. The lightweight blue jacket can be worn inside or outside. The jacket must be waist length with the zipper worn no lower than halfway between the collar and the waistband. Females can choose to wear the male version of the lightweight blue jacket.
The Airmen is heading off to squadron physical training at the track behind the Warrior Fitness Center. The wind chill has dropped the temperature to a balmy 30 degrees Fahrenheit. How is an Airman supposed to stay warm when meeting up with the unit? AFI 36-2903 also details cold weather wear of the PTU and IPTU for situations just like this.
The long-sleeve shirt will be tucked into the PTU shorts or running pants at all times. It cannot be untucked playing basketball or weight lifting, for example, and then tucked back in. The sleeves on the long-sleeved shirt are not allowed to be pushed up, removed, or cut at any length. The sweatshirt must extend no lower than 6 inches below the natural waist line and sleeves also may not be pushed up, removed or cut at any length.
When wearing the running pants, the waistband must rests at or within 2 inches of the natural waistline. Both pant legs must extend below the ankles and will be zipped to within 1 inch of the bottom. Short, medium and full length solid black or dark blue form fitting sportswear, including spandex, lycra or elastic material, may be worn and visible under the PTU.
Solid black, dark blue or sage green knit watch caps without logos may be worn. Gloves will be black or dark blue leather, knitted, tricot or suede or a combination without logos. A scarf can be worn, but it must be black or dark blue and made of all wool or cotton simplex. The scarf must be less than 10-inches in width. Earmuffs will be solid black or dark blue and made of any material. Earmuffs may wrap around either the top or rear of the head. Cold weather accessories for the PTU may be worn outdoors only.
The green or black fleece is not authorized to be worn with the PTU or IPTU.
Master Sgt. Ashika Dyson, 99th Comptroller Squadron, Wing Staff Agencies, and U.S. Air Force Warfare Center first sergeant, stresses the importance of dressing suitably for colder weather conditions to stay healthy and safe but to ensure mission success no matter the conditions.
“Dressing appropriately for cold weather is a safety concern, especially when your duties require you to be exposed to the elements,” Dyson said. “It is important to be mission ready at all times. If you’re ready to perform, regardless of the conditions, you’re excelling at being the best Airman you can be.”
Knowing how to properly wear cold weather uniform items can not only keep Airmen safe during winter and extreme weather conditions but also help ensure compliancy of uniform regulations.
Next time an Airman finds himself or herself rushing out into the cold, perhaps he or she will remember to wear an approved cold weather outer garment with their gloves and watch cap.