Air Force Approves Shorts for All Maintainers, Offers More Options for PT Socks

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Air Force new maintenance shorts
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Richard Flagg, 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, shows off his new maintenance shorts Jan. 23, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. (Rhett Isbell/U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Force is giving its maintainer airmen a little more breathing room by letting them wear shorts on the job at bases or facilities that exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher throughout the year.

In a new change to Air Force Instruction 36-2903, "Dress and Appearance," the service said airmen in the maintenance 2-series Air Force specialty codes -- which range from propulsion technicians to nuclear weapons system personnel -- can begin wearing standard-issue dark navy blue shorts instead of pants in the soon-to-be-phased out Airman Battle Uniform camouflage or new Operational Camouflage Pattern.

The change, along with other uniform modifications, will take effect March 15 to coincide with the publishing update within the instruction, the release states.

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"These options came directly from feedback from the field through the virtual uniform board, and feedback from commands in the field," Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in the release. "We appreciated the feedback we received from airmen and the opportunity to hear their concerns and ideas."

Shorts will be allowed on flight lines, hangars and dock areas that are outside of climate-controlled facilities, according to the release. Commanders should consult the instruction to ensure these airmen meet specified requirements of the wear change, including wearing the shorts with the service's coyote brown T-shirt and green or coyote brown socks with boots, it says.

Bases with notoriously hot temperatures such as Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, began issuing shorts to airmen in 2019. Then, airmen at Kadena Air Base, Japan, were given the OK to sport shorts last summer.

High-stress, high-heat environments prompted the move to OK utility shorts.

In Arizona, for example, temperatures range between 90 and 120 degrees during peak summer months. July 2020 broke records in the state for the hottest month on record since the National Weather Service began documenting Phoenix weather in 1890, according to Good Morning Arizona's meteorologist April Warnecke.

Technicians still must wear proper protective clothing when required, the service has previously stated.

Bluetooth Devices

Got AirPods? Now, you can keep them in your ears more often at work, the Air Force said.

Per the instruction change, headphones, earpieces and Bluetooth devices may be worn in uniform either indoors or outdoors if airmen are performing official duties, or may be authorized "as determined by the installation commander, delegable no lower than the squadron commander level," the release states.

Accessories: Socks, Bags and Glasses

The Air Force is allowing airmen and Space Force Guardians to diversify their sock options for physical training and providing more wear options for glasses, sunglasses and work bags.

PT-approved sock options include: solid black, white, navy blue, gray, desert sand, tan, and Defense Logistics Agency‐issued green or coyote brown, the release says. The socks "may have small trademark logos," it adds.

Eyeglasses and sunglasses frame colors authorized include black, brown, white, navy blue, gray or transparent material, or gold or silver wire.

Messenger and lunch bags will be permitted, and airmen can carry either black, brown, gray or navy blue solid color bags while in uniform, the release states. The bags should not be patterned or include a design, unless it's either the ABU or OCP pattern.

Duty Patches, Tactical Caps

Airmen and Guardians can start wearing their job specialty duty identifier patch. The patches can use a maximum of five letters and the spice brown color scheme in line with the OCP.

Lastly, officials said, it may be more than a year before the service can begin fielding "tactical caps" authorized for wear with the OCP uniform; the Air Force said it's currently working through the acquisition process for the item.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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