New Air Force Unies

Air Force Link

In early 2002, the Air Force chief of staff and the U.S. Air Force Uniform Board put together a uniform that met distinct criteria. It had to be better fitting, less expensive and easier to maintain, and specific to the Air Force.

Elmendorf is one of the nine testing sites for this proposed utility uniform.

The 200 Airmen here who recently participated in a fit test for the proposed blue, green and gray ensemble will soon be wearing the uniforms while performing their various day-to-day taskings.

Senior Master Sgt. Jaqueline Dean from the Chief Uniform Board Office at the Pentagon is overseeing testing Air Force-wide. According to her, the uniform has gotten mixed reviews.

“A lot of people are concerned about the colors,” Sergeant Dean said. “They want to know what we are trying to camouflage ourselves against.”

Sergeant Dean’s defense to this is that 97 percent of the Airmen today do not need to be in a camouflage uniform on a day-to-day basis.

“This uniform is for those 97 percent,” she said. “Obviously the other 3 percent, when needed, will deploy in a more camouflaged uniform.”


“On April 1, we’re going to be putting out a Web site that anybody can get on and give us their feedback,” Sergeant Dean said. “Anything you would like to see or think you need in this uniform, tell us. We’re encouraging people to get on this Web site and give us their opinions.”

Only in the Air Force. . . .

Seriously, this seems like a move in the wrong direction. The entire U.S. military should wear a common battle-utility uniform, since it would eliminate one logistical bottleneck. And, frankly, it should be desert camouflage rather than the Army-USMC woodland pattern or whatever this USAF design is supposed to be.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs,
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. Ron says:

    How’d that guy get my pajamas!

  2. Timmer says:

    I swear to you this is from the original release on the new uniform. The Blue/Grey/Black/Green pattern is supposed to help camouflage us in an urban or airfield setting where we would most likely be working.

    I haven’t seen that explanation since last year some time and I’m guessing that somewhere up the chain a conversation like this occurred:

    Gen Logistician: Chief, we told them it helps camouflage them at airfields and urban environments…think they believed us?

    Chief Cantbelievehiseyes: #@** no…sir.

    Gen L: Okay…we’ll drop that pitch.

    What this picture doesn’t show is the nifty (highlight sarcasm for the slow) little AF Emblem that’s part of the actual camouflage pattern.

    On the other side, part of the logistics problem has BEEN that all the services were wearing the same woodland pattern and there’s ALWAYS a shortage.

    As I mentioned on Sgt Stryker when these things were first released…if these things are really as wash and wear as they claim to be, I don’t much care WHAT color they are.

    My prediction? We’ll be back to the real wash and wear utility greens that we wore in the 80s by the year 2020. That’s assuming that we haven’t been so “Reshaped” (downsized) that the AF just isn’t sucked into one of the other services.

  3. John A. Kalb says:

    I read an article a month or two that says that apparently the best camo color for a plane is some shade of pink. Maybe that should be the air force uni’s color.

    As for having some desert camo scheme be the default, that may end up being as short-sighted as the Cold War woodland color, since in ten years, we may be worrying about fighting on the African savannas. I’d just stick to the woodland motif except when troops are deployed, when they get their specialized ones.

    It seems, though, like the military is too big to get all new uniforms at once. That seems to be their biggest bottleneck.

  4. The entire U.S. military should wear a common battle-utility uniform…

    I concur. The USMC MARPAT (digital cammies) get my vote. These things really make you disappear, and they’re currently available in both woodland and desert patterns, with an urban pattern to be available soon.

    That’s assuming that we haven’t been so “Reshaped” (downsized) that the AF just isn’t sucked into one of the other services.

    I’ve long thought that the Air Force should become part of the Navy. But I’ll admit to a considerable amount of prejudice. 🙂

  5. Fred Boness says:

    The best camo would be a pattern that doesn’t show stains from grease, oil, powdered donuts or tacos.

  6. Rodney Dill says:

    They would suck unless you were a Detroit Lions fan, which would suck enough in itself.

  7. Timmer says:

    Hmmmmmmmmm, add a little orange and a teeny tiny bear’s head into the pattern…NOW we’re talkin’!

  8. DeltaDave says:

    Generally speaking the USAF does not need a camouflage uniform to accomplish its mission. To spend any significant amount of appropriated, R&D or O&M moneies on a camouflage uniform for the USAF military folks is pure pork.

    Some USAF folks do need a camouflague uniform…the forward air observers come to mind, and maybe the small minority of USAF folks running running around with the elite black units need camouflage…but the entire USAF??? the folks who pave colocated sidewalks and eventually call them runways??? Not a chance.

    Camouflage has become a status symbol…a sign that you are “on the ground”. Well the USAF for the most part is not on the ground. They are in the air. Pink may be perfect for these folks as pointed out above.

    Bottom line if the USAF needs a comouflage uniform, it ought to be on a case-by-case basis and the user ought to get it issued by the Service unit (Army or Marine)that he is supporting.

    Yeah, the Army and Marines have different camoflage, but its a legit difference in opinion and mission. The USAF has no significant need other than to support one or the the other ground force and then he or she ought to blend in instead of standing stark with a differnt pattern.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Strangely, everyone had the standard NATO woodland cammie for years. Suddenly, the Jarheads decided they needed a different one.

    I agree that the Air Force doesn’t usually need camouflage. Indeed, most people in the Army don’t in a day-to-day situation. They’re mostly office workers, after all. I just figure it makes sense to have a generic utility uniform that the services can agree on. If there’s a need for an issued battle dress uniform that’s different, that’s fine too.

  10. Timmer says:

    Actually, one thing that I forgot is that we’re mostly going to be wearing them as a utility uniform, not a battle dress. Which means, is it comfortable? Does it clean easy? Do I have enough pockets to store my wrench, PDA, TO, and cell phone/walkie talkie/brick? Do I have to freaking starch it to keep the first shirt off my back on my first duty day?

    But seriously though, a little organge…darken the blue, get some bear’s heads worked into the pattern…daaaaaaaaaa Bears!

  11. tony says:

    “Our Core Values, Integrity first, Service before self and Excellence in all we do, set the common standard for conduct across the Air Force. These values inspire the trust which provides the unbreakable bond that unifies the force. We must practice them ourselves and expect no less from those with whom we serve(Ryan).” The Air Force despite all there faults has lost its way in the last 10 years. First of all it approves a dress uniform similar to the Navy’s dress uniform, completely disregarding almost 50 years of tradition, then it starts wear test of a new “utility uniform”. However as when they first announced its start they said that it would replace the woodland dress uniform, now they changed there story this is completely contradictory to Integrity first. And to let this, the most sacred of our core values to be completely tossed aside like garbage is reckless and dangerous. It eats away at the very foundation of this institution. Then it started calling airman that deploy with army units “battlefield airman.” However since most military operations are joint operations it is reasonable to say that all airman are battlefield airman, and should be trained the same way.
    The proposed uniform was announced August 9, 2003 on the Air Force’s website. The CSAF is quoted as saying, “Our intent is to create a uniform that will be distinctive, practical, easy to maintain, comfortable, and most important, a uniform you will be proud to wear.” Now while most of the statement seems accurate, one point sticks out the practical part. This uniform was brought out as a replacement of the woodland BDU’s but as one looks at it one is forced to ask what does it blend in with, no one as of yet has been able to answer that question. However every time that question comes up with our senior leaders as well as those on the uniform board, they always have the same response and that is “Preliminary test with infrared goggles suggest it camouflages even better than the current BDU pattern. We are conducting more extensive tests this month to determine its effectiveness in several environments.” But why would they say suggest it camouflages even better, either it does or it does not. Then again the CMSAF is quoted in the Air Force Times as saying, “this uniform is not about camouflage…This uniform is about utility.” So now that we know it doesn’t camouflage with the environment that it is to be used in. This is not the only problem with the proposed uniform.
    The second biggest problem is in the fact of who will wear it and when. According to SMSgt Dean, “this uniform is for the 97%…obviously the other 3% when needed, will deploy in a more camouflage uniform. Now in calculating how many that 3% were, the number come to about 10800 personal. But according to the CSAF, when justifying changing the physical training program wrote, “we upheld the highest standards of performance, learned from the thing we could have done better, and will make ourselves better as a result; …in that 40,000 warriors deployed forward.” Now that is 11% of the force, almost 4 times the amount of personal that SMSgt Dean has said need a camouflage uniform. So which one of them is correct, one of the reason that the CSAF changed the physical training program is because, “some of our airman are operating today from inside Iraq, subject to attack, and could be called upon to help defend the base, a trend that will surely increase in the growing expeditionary nature of our business.” In helping to defend ones base one does not want to be so visible. So the question is pose again who are the 3% who do not require camouflage. And if this is so why even put a pattern on it, why not let it just have a solid color uniform.

  12. RICHEY says:

    As a Marine, I can say the digtal cammies work much better than the traditional woodland pattern, they’re also more comfertable, and very easy to clean. They are was and wear, washing them puts the creases back in. As for the Air Force, as someone who has also spent a great deal of time w/ the AF, they really don’t need cammies. Many wear coveralls or flight suits anyways in their job anyways. I do concurr that units such as maybe the 160th SOAR and Combat Controllers need a good camo though, and our digies(MARPAT) are great at it.

  13. richey says:

    “That’s assuming that we haven’t been so “Reshaped” (downsized) that the AF just isn’t sucked into one of the other services.”

    Downsized! I’ve seen nothing but getting bigger!