U.S. Air Force leaders have announced the service will move to a single combat utility uniform, adopting the Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP, already in use by the Army and Airmen in combat zones and in certain jobs across the Air Force.
Starting Oct. 1, 2018, Airmen who have serviceable OCPs may wear the uniform, and Airmen can purchase OCPs at Army and Air Force Exchange Services at the following locations: Aviano Air Base, Italy; Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina; Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina; and MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. These initial locations will allow uniform manufacturers to produce additional stocks for other locations, eventually outfitting the total force in the coming months.
The service will fully transition to OCPs by April 1, 2021.
Air Force leaders decided to transition to the OCP following feedback from Airmen that it is the best, battle-tested utility uniform available. It will also eliminate the need to maintain two separate uniforms – one for in-garrison and one for deployments – and it is a visible reminder of the service’s identity as a joint warfighting force, Air Force officials said.
“We looked at all utility uniforms currently in our inventory to find the best-of-breed,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein. “We spoke to and listened to Airmen on this, and the OCP was the clear choice.”
“The uniform works in all climates—from Minot to Manbij—and across the spectrum of missions we perform,” Goldfein added. “It’s suitable for our Airmen working on a flight line in Northern Tier states and for those conducting patrols in the Middle East,” he said.
More than 100,000 Airmen have been issued or are already wearing OCPs or equivalent two-piece flight suits—from Airmen deployed to Air Forces Central Command, to those serving in Air Force Special Operations Command, and most recently, aircrews in Air Mobility Command and defenders in Air Force Global Strike Command.
Preserving service & squadron identity
As with the Battle Dress Uniform, or BDU, worn by all services until about 10 years ago, the OCP Airmen wear will have distinctive Air Force features. The name tape and Air Force lettering will be a spice-brown color, and T-shirts and belts will be tan. Most rank will also be in spice-brown thread.
Squadron patches will also be worn on the OCP, said Goldfein. Bringing back squadron patches was among the recommendations made by Airmen as part of the ongoing effort to revitalize squadrons.
“Unit patches express squadron identity and heritage – something our Airmen are incredibly proud of and want to celebrate,” he said.
Unit patches and special functional identifiers (Security Forces, Fire, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Tactical Air Control Party, Combat Controller, etc.) will be attached to Velcro fabric on the sleeves. All patches will be in subdued colors; headquarters patches and the U.S. flag will be worn on the right shoulder, and unit patches and authorized duty identifiers will be worn on the left shoulder.
Airmen can find guidance for proper wear of the uniform in the coming months via an Air Force Guidance Memorandum, followed by updates published in AFI 36-2903.
Proven for better fit and functionality
Feedback from the force indicated Airmen find the OCP more functional—from the slanted, Velcro chest pockets to the easily-accessible shoulder pockets. Female Airmen have made it clear that this uniform is a better fit, as well.
“The Army has done considerable work to make the OCPs a better fitting uniform for female service members,” said Maj. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, director of military force management policy, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “The uniform comes in 20 female sizes and 37 unisex sizes. Female Airmen, currently issued the unisex uniform in U.S. Air Forces Central Command, report a better fit and higher morale as a result.”
Enlisted Airmen should start to see an increase to their annual clothing allowances starting Oct. 1, 2018.
“Many of our Airmen already have this uniform from their numerous deployments, so they will be able to make the transition easily,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. “For other Airmen, we must provide enough time for their clothing allowance to fund the items to avoid out-of-pocket expenses.”
Effective April 1, 2019, Airmen can purchase the uniform at any AAFES store that carries them and AAFES online services will open purchases to Airmen around October 2019. The schedule will be updated monthly on the AAFES and Air Force’s Personnel Center websites.
The delay in availability allows the supply chain to produce and field enough uniforms, boots and other associated uniform items to meet both Army and Air Force requirements. Enlisted Guard and Reserve Airmen will receive the new uniform through their unit’s clothing replacement procedures.
The Air Force will also outfit Basic Military Training, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, and Officer Training School starting October 1, 2019.
“This celebrates joint warfighting excellence as OCPs will become the joint combat uniform for Airmen and Soldiers while patches and nametapes will identify our respective services,” Goldfein said. “We’ll maintain our distinctive Air Force uniforms in blues, service dress, mess dress, and PT gear.”