Air Force Chief of Staff’s Hilarious New Uniform

From the Department of What The Hell Were They Thinking, I present Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh's new ceremonial uniform:

From the Department of What The Hell Were They Thinking, I present Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh’s new ceremonial uniform:

Mark Welsh Air Force Ceremonial Uniform

Battleland’s Mark Thompson:

The amount of discussion you get on various military topics depends on how many folks are “read into” – aware of, and knowledgeable (usually) about – any given program or subject.

That’s why you hear so little debate on the Pentagon’s nuclear war-fighting plans, and so much about military uniforms.

The Air Force is the latest service to get its silver braid wrapped around the axle. It seems the new Air Force chief of staff, General Mark Welsh, rolled out a new ceremonial uniform recently, and return fire from the readers of Air Force Magazine hasn’t been kind.

“Ditch the zoot suit,” one reader wrote in the magazine’s just-published December issue. “General Welsh looks like a Russian crown prince at an embassy ball. What is it? Come on, General LeMay would never wear that!!”

“It appears the general is or was a member of the Air Force Band,” another opined. “Thank God I retired in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel.”

Indeed, there are few matters that get military members and veterans more riled up than changes to the uniform. Eric Shinseki is still viewed as History’s Greatest Monster by many for the temerity to take the black beret that Army Rangers had worn for years and make it standard issue for every soldier, evenly lowly REMFs. Merrill McPeak’s strange Air Force uniforms of a couple decades back, which were essentially business suits with medals affixed, went away right after McPeak did. And the Navy’s new Smurf-inspired cammo pattern—which isn’t designed to camouflage anything except grease spots–is a source of never-ending mirth.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John H says:

    Doesn’t have the mustache for a Banana Republic admiral, so my guess would be a highly decorated Chief of Police.

  2. Jeremy says:

    I’m not really one to talk about uniforms, as I’ve never been in the military proper (just my AFJROTC unit) but…

    …..yeeesh. He does look like some minor prince of a European royal family, not the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. Please, eject all the silvery crap and just get back to a plain uniform.

  3. Mikey says:

    Wow, that’s just gaudy. What’s with the silver piping on the epaulets? He looks like he should be conducting a marching band or something.

    Merrill McPeak’s strange Air Force uniforms of a couple decades back, which were essentially business suits with medals affixed, went away right after McPeak did.

    Don’t even get me started on McPeak. I think his motto was “Change gives the illusion of progress.” He didn’t just screw up the uniforms (thank goodness we dumped all that after he went away), he re-numbered all the regulations and started calling them “instructions,” and he re-numbered all the Air Force Specialty Codes, even though there wasn’t anything wrong with the ones we had.

  4. Tom says:

    As a Naval veteran, I urge the General to keep these uniforms as long as possible. It makes the Smurf-pat my service adopted look a bit less ridiculous.


  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Reminds me a bit of a stasi officer’s uniform.

  6. Vast Variety says:

    I might just be a bit odd but I like it. It’s a a bit retro.

  7. Vast Variety says:

    @Dave Schuler: Reminds me of the old WWI Cavalry officer uniforms.

  8. scott says:

    @Mikey: Don’t forget the fun exercise of Total Quality Management (AKA To Quote McPeak). I remember standing in one of the concourses at Atlanta airport giving directions because everybody thought I was a Delta pilot.

  9. Mikey says:

    @Vast Variety: The “retro” is intentional, I believe–the collar, specifically, has been discussed for a while as an homage to what was worn between World Wars 1 and 2.

    But the rest of it, at least what we see in the photo, isn’t good. He looks like the Chief of Staff of the Army–The SALVATION ARMY…

  10. John Peabody says:

    “Hello, welcome to the Waldorf-Astoria! Please enter the main lobby; I’ll bring all the bags to your room…”

  11. legion says:

    Ugh. The first thing I look for on initiatives like this is some explanation of WHY. Why is a change needed at all? Is there a real reason for such a colossally massive thing as a uniform change or are you just looking for something to pad your resume with? McPeak’s AF uniform was a joke that everyone hated, but at least you could point to the old ones and say “It’s the exact same thing as the Army uni, just from blue material instead of green – we need something of our own!” The result was still a classic example of nobody having the guts to tell the boss when he’s got a bad idea, but at least there was some kind of reason. But this? This is stupid.

  12. CSK says:

    @John Peabody:

    Or the usher at the Trans-Luxe Moving Picture Palace.

  13. Al says:


  14. gVOR08 says:

    Let us not forget one empirical rule of military history. The side with the spiffier uniforms generally loses.

  15. Dave Schuler says:


    The side with the spiffier uniforms generally loses.

    Then victory is assured.

  16. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    When I first saw it, I was thinking band uniform, too, but Crown Prince of a small European Duchy is good, too. For me the sliver/brass/gold thing is too conflicting, but what I wonder is why he decided to put Pac-man crocodile characters on the visor of the cap?

  17. I bet the Marines are just laughing their butts off over this. They haven’t changed their Class A and B uniforms or Dress Blues since before World War 2.

  18. de stijl says:

    Neil Patrick Harris in Starship Troopers.

    Do you want to know more?