Airmen Face Challenges Buying New OCP Uniforms

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Airmen at Aviano Air Base, Italy, filled the Army and Air Force Exchange Service sales store to purchase the Operational Camouflage Pattern utility uniform on Oct. 1, 2018. Mikia Muhammad/Defense Logistics Agency
Airmen at Aviano Air Base, Italy, filled the Army and Air Force Exchange Service sales store to purchase the Operational Camouflage Pattern utility uniform on Oct. 1, 2018. Mikia Muhammad/Defense Logistics Agency

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service recently sent out a message to airmen that they should buy the new Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) uniform only at AAFES stores. But it appears the situation is even more complicated -- and frustrating -- for airmen trying to get their hands on OCPs.

Facebook and other social media sites have been flooded with comments describing frustrations with trying to purchase the OCP uniform at military clothing stores and being refused.

"Barksdale [Air Force Base] has boxes of OCPs all over their clothing sales floor. Yet they wouldn't sell them to me when I was there for a week and the people stationed there can only buy 2 sets," Joe Soblosky wrote, responding to a Facebook post on the subject.

Soblosky receive the following reply on Facebook from a moderator at the Exchange page: "The Army & Air Force Exchange Service does not own Military Clothing Sales stores but operates them on behalf of the services. Per Air Force [manpower regulations], Airmen are restricted from purchasing OCP uniforms outside of the fielding plan. At this stage in the Air Force's fielding plan, Airmen are not authorized to purchase OCPs from Army MCS stores."

AAFES put out an April 10 release advising airmen to buy OCPs only from AAFES stores because those uniforms have a government-certified contract number on the inside label and comply with the Berry Amendment, a federal regulation that requires uniforms, equipment and other military items to be made by U.S. manufacturers. It wasn’t clear from the message, though, that AAFES-operated Army Military Clothing Sales stores were also off-limits.

Military.com reached out to AAFES for comment on the issue and received this statement: "Unfortunately, there have been some supply constraints for certain uniform items supplied by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)," according to a statement from AAFES spokesman Chris Ward.

"Uniform manufacturers, in coordination with DLA, are committed to meeting the increased demand for OCP uniforms for Airmen as swiftly as possible," it continued. "The mandatory wear date for the OCP is not until April 1, 2021, by which time DLA expects to be fully supplied with OCP uniforms for Air Force personnel."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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