Airmen and Space Force members whose names contain accent marks or hyphens will soon be able to purchase accurate name tapes and tags, while qualifying male airmen will be newly able to receive five-year shaving waivers, the U.S. Air Force announced Friday. Those changes are part of a series of updates to the service's dress and appearance policy aimed at "creating a more inclusive culture," officials said.
The changes, effective immediately, update Air Force Instruction 36-2903, "Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel," to remove "subjective language and other rules that may have been creating unintentional or unfair barriers for Air and Space Force uniformed members."
"As we listened to airmen and space professionals, we reviewed our policies and identified language in our dress and appearance instruction that was problematic for certain groups," said Lisa Truesdale, Air Force deputy director of military force management policy.
"Ensuring inclusive language in our policies is one of the first steps in creating a more inclusive culture where all uniformed members can thrive and maximize their fullest potential," she said in a release.
The changes, made July 10, are effective immediately. They include:
- Extended shaving waivers. In June, the Air Force's surgeon general approved a five-year waiver allowing male airmen with a chronic inflammatory condition to keep their beards. The condition, known as Pseudofolliculitis Barbae, or PFB, causes razor bumps and painful ingrown beard hair; it commonly affects Black men. The change means that airmen no longer need to request an exemption on an annual basis and "allows them to more readily present a neat, clean, and professional image." The news was first reported by Air Force Times.
- Removal of subjective language. The service eliminated the word "faddish," according to the AFI. The word resulted "in particular demographics being disproportionately caught up by the enforcement of those rules that included the term," the release states.
- Unique names. Airmen and space members with names that have accent marks or hyphens (e.g. Peña, Lewis-Miles, Müller, Calderón) may purchase name tapes or tags that reflect this correct spelling and pronunciation.
- Distinguishable hair line. Men can keep one straight-line part (cut, clipped or shaved) on either side of their head.
- Combat boot variation. The Air Force has removed the restriction on combat boot height, "acknowledging that some career fields require more flexibility."
The changes are part of the service's overall goal to revise policies and procedures that may unfairly target minorities.
Last month, the Air Force Inspector General launched an independent review into the service's history of disparity in military punishment and developmental opportunities given to African American service members.
The service also created a new task force to analyze diversity and inclusion issues.
Headed by Brig. Gen. Troy Dunn, the Air Force's director of military force management policy, the group spearheaded the latest dress and appearance changes, the service said in a separate release last week.
One such reform the service is working toward is increasing scholarships for hundreds of Black and Hispanic cadets, the release adds.
Qualified recipients "will receive a full-ride scholarship with full tuition and fees paid, starting in the 2020-21 school year," the service said.
"The move is intended to increase minority representation in the officer ranks, something the Air Force has struggled with," officials said.
"Clearly, we have to acknowledge our Air and Space Forces are not immune from racism and the challenges of inequity. As a force that depends on unity, inclusion, and a common strength of purpose, we are committed to being better every day until all within our ranks feel a true sense of belonging that allows them to maximize their talents," said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. "This is why we stood up the task force, to move out quickly and deliver immediate improvements for our services."