Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Uniforms

Pardon me while I complain for a moment.

The Air Force recently rolled out a new uniform, the Airman Battle Uniform (aka the ABU, not to be confused with Abu Ghraib). The idea was to have a "service-distinctive" uniform, so naturally it looks just like the Army's new Army Combat Uniform (aka the ACU, not to be confused with the ACLU).

I've been wearing it for a while now, and have quite a list of things I dislike about it. For starters, the shirts and pants were manufactured by two different companies, so mine don't really match. One is more gray, the other is more green. It's subtle but hard to miss once you notice it. They tell me it's ok for them to not match.

The fabric is stiff, thick and hot. Good thing we always work in air conditioned environments, right?

Maybe I bought the wrong size, but the doggone uniform doesn't fit. It's too small in the arms and shoulders, but huge around the waist (ok, maybe it fits the typical Chair Force body type?). I can't even roll up the sleeves, because they're just too tight around my arms. Actually, I bought two different sizes - a larger one that's huge around the middle but has sleeves I can roll, and a smaller size that fits my waist but is tight on the shoulder and arms. I suppose I can have the waist taken in a bit, if I want to spend the money.

The t-shirts are cheap and got all pilly very fast. I've only had it for two or three months (and only wear it a couple times a week), but they turned pilly after one or two wears.

The pockets are really deep. Like, REALLY deep, as in, I'm almost up to my elbow when I go looking for a quarter. And do I really need 5 pencil pockets (one on the chest, two on the left arm, two on the right leg)?

Maybe someday I'll get to wear my blue uniform again on a regular basis. That would be nice.


Eric said...

Just wait until you wash it for another month or two and it starts fading on all the edges (if it hasn't already).

Passante said...

My former husband (a long-time-ago retired AF colonel) used to say that the AF top brass all thought they were Yves St. Laurent, and it was a pity they didn't have better things to do with their time than reinvent the uniform every couple of years.

I see they're still at it.

Dick Field said...

I realize this reflects my "old guy", Vietnam-era prejudice, but I have a hard time with the whole concept of wearing what we used to call "fatigues" for standard duty wear outside the war zone and for other than training. It didn't happen in former times (by cracky!), including Vietnam (I arrived and departed in summer khakis, with jungle fatigues in between). Think of all the pics and documentaries you've seen of WWII troops in transit in the US or on leave with families, etc. How many were wearing fatigues? None. There were songs by female vocalists celebrating soon-to-be departing "fellahs" in their sharp uniforms (I don't think they meant KP duty uniforms either).

My understanding from my military colleagues in my DoD agency is that it is to show support for troops in the field (I believe the operative term is "down range"). By wearing a combat uniform, is it supposed to suggest equivalent exposure to danger and hardship-? Oh, c'mon, I doubt deployed troops take much comfort in that. In fact, assuming the combat look in non-combat situations seems a little insulting to those who actually are in harms way and wish they could be cleaner and wear "peacetime" uniforms.

I don't think fatigue uniforms in the office place or other home front venues look good. They certainly don't look "strac" (is that term still used?). I think the Class A uniform (or summer equivalent) projects a sharp and admirable military bearing and image. Fatigues - well, they look sloppy and out of place, no matter how sharp the crease, particularly when worn by a multi-star in a headquarters setting. Reminds me of the "Saigon Commandos" (to employ another beloved expression of yore).

That's my opinion and I'm sticking by it . . . by cracky!

Rhet said...

I've been wearing the new uniform quite a while and I think it's absolutely fantastic. I guess you can't please everyone all the time. It is certainly a LOT better than the old BDU fatigues. I do agree that those of us with "desk jobs" should be wearing the blue semi-dress uniform because it looks more professional, but as long as I've got to wear the fatigues, I'm much happier to be wearing the ABUs.

For starters, the shirts and pants were manufactured by two different companies, so mine don't really match.
The color variance isn't due to different manufacturers. It's due to color tolerance problems with production of the material. They'll figure it out eventually. In the mean time, buy matching sets. My local military clothing store took my sizes and checked every new shipment for matching sets in my sizes. My ABUs look great and the color still matches through many was cycles.

The fabric is stiff, thick and hot.
It is a little stiff and hot but I don't mind and it does soften over time. I'm happy to trade stiffness for the true "wash & wear" fabric in the new ABUs. They are much easier to care for than the BDUs.

Maybe I bought the wrong size, but the doggone uniform doesn't fit.
I think you must have the wrong size. There are over 200 sizes available for the ABU in many different lengths. I had to try on several sizes but found ones that fit perfectly (something the BDUs NEVER did) and they look so much better. The BDUs add 15-20 pounds to everyone that wears them...particularly bad for the chair force image of the Air Force! The ABUs look much sharper and make it more difficult to hide the weight behind the BDUs...in fact, I'd like to see a study that correlates overweight Air Force personnel (which I heard exceed 50%) before the switch to full time BDU wear and after the switch. I believe the BDUs make it harder to tell someone is putting on extra pounds which leads commanders to take less action, thus contributing to increasing the number of overweight personnel in the Air Force despite an improved fitness program. In blues, you could tell right away if someone was unprofessionally overweight leading to some degree of self-correction.

And do I really need 5 pencil pockets
I like them! I use the breast pocket for clipping my badge holder and the other four contain a pencil, black pen, green pen, and laser pointer. Looks a lot better than a pocket protector and keeps me amply armed for anything that comes up in my chair force environment! ;-)

The t-shirts are cheap and got all pilly very fast.
True, but there are alternatives, albeit they are more expensive.

The Dan Ward said...

I agree with those of you who mentioned that the daily uniform for those of us in non-battle areas should be the blues. Makes sense to me!

Rhet - I'm glad the ABU's are working out for you (and I kinda like the pencil pockets too). Our clothing sales didn't help at all in matching colors - they told me all the pants looked one way and all the shirts looked another way. I would have waited longer, but my BDU's desperately needed to be replaced.

I'd heard about the "200 sizes," tho I haven't counted them myself. In any case, the military clothing sales shop here only carried a tiny fraction of that number, but the thing for me was that the 44R fit my arms, chest & shoulders, but is HUGE around the waist (it's almost maternity-wear), while the 42R fits better around the waist, and is tight everywhere else (i.e. I can't roll the sleeves). The other 198 sizes don't fit any better, tho I admit I didn't try them all on. :)

It's nice to have variety, but I can't understand why they picked a pattern where the waist circumference is larger than the chest. Like I said, I'll have to go to a tailor...