Air Force May Go Old School With Dress Blue Uniform Update

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Chief Master Sgt. Gerard Crump, 85th Engineering Installation Squadron, inspects the uniform of Staff Sgt. Bryant Horton, 85th EIS, during a squadron open ranks inspection Nov. 25, 2013. (U.S. Air Force/Adam Bond)
Chief Master Sgt. Gerard Crump, 85th Engineering Installation Squadron, inspects the uniform of Staff Sgt. Bryant Horton, 85th EIS, during a squadron open ranks inspection Nov. 25, 2013. (U.S. Air Force/Adam Bond)

The U.S. Air Force is not only getting new battle uniforms in the near future, service officials are also debating a change to the dress blue uniform.

In a move that closely mirrors the Army's push to bring back its World War II-era pinks and greens uniform, the service is considering a look that reflects its 70-year history, particularly in the dress blues jacket, Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, chief master sergeant of the Air Force, told Air Force Times on Wednesday.

"The service coat is something that we may look at changing," the service's top enlisted leader told the Times in an interview. "We'd like to get back to a little more heritage on the jacket, potentially adding two additional pockets and bringing it into more of a military style. I'd like to see it brought more in line with our military heritage."

Wright told the Times he foresees the updated jacket rolling out to airmen as early as next year, but many factors are still being considered and discussed. "It is something that we are interested in but right now, no, there is no date for a change to the coat," he told Military.com in a statement Thursday.

"We haven't made any decisions just yet, but both [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein] and I like some of the historic, traditional uniforms that we've had in the past. We have to take our time to make sure these things are done right," he said.

Per Wright's description, the Air Force may look to the classic jacket worn between 1969 and 1990. After a uniform board convened in 1968, then-Chief of Staff Gen. John P. McConnell approved a cleaner look with a limited number of badges, but the two-pocket design remained. The style was worn by airmen such as Gen. Curtis LeMay.

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The move to evoke the service's history is similar to the Army's recent push to bring back the WWII-era pinks and greens uniform.

In March, the Army's top enlisted soldier defended the decision even though the change will be costly. The service is "working very hard to get that cost to be neutral, but unfortunately the reality of that is, it won't," said Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, sergeant major of the Army, adding there is never a "right time" to make uniform changes.

Though a final decision has not been made, the uniform will be "historically accurate" to the uniform Gen. George C. Marshall wore as chief of staff of the Army during World War II, Dailey said at the time.

News of a possible change to Air Force dress blues closely follows the service's announcement that it is switching its battle uniform to the Army's camouflage pattern.

The Air Force in May announced it is adopting the Army's Operational Camouflage Pattern as its new combat uniform. The uniform will start being phased in Oct. 1, with the expectation that all airmen will be wearing the OCP pattern by April 2021, officials said at the time.

The push for simpler, more comfortable uniforms has been a top discussion point for the service's leadership, including Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

"We do have a process for making sure these things happen the correct way," Wright said Thursday. "Just like with the OCP announcement, we don't want to make any changes without giving our airmen time to adjust. If we do change the service coat or any other uniform item, we'll be sure to give enough lead and transition time for airmen to be ready."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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