Uniform: from the first sergeant perspective

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Rolando Pabon
  • 95th Medicl Group
It did not take long for the results of the 98th Air Force Virtual Uniform Board to become the topic of conversation at water coolers and message boards across the Air Force. Within minutes of the results hitting the streets, Airmen formed and voiced their opinions -- some more animated than others -- about the changes to our uniform that will soon affect us all.

Some of the changes did not create a buzz, like those associated with accoutrements. Airmen meeting criteria are now authorized to wear the US Army Parachute Riggers badge and the US Army Air Assault badge on their Air Force uniform. 

This comes as no surprise to me, since Airmen are increasingly meeting the enemy face-to-face in non-traditional roles more typical of Soldiers. They should be recognized for their efforts. Joint effectiveness of U.S. Air Force and Army forces is critical to achieving national objectives in today's strategic environment.

However, other changes created lots of chatter. When my Airmen heard that trousers were to be immediately tucked into boots and present a bloused appearance, my email was flooded with questions and opinions. It would have been difficult to answer these questions because I too, had concerns. Luckily, I was not the only one bombarded.

Not long after the original message was released, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force sent an email stating, "We have received numerous emails and phone calls about the blousing of the boots. We should be seeing a new message very soon on this subject. The message will delay this until next year and will also look closer at the intent. Your Airmen don't have to rush out and purchase new ABU pants to be able to tuck them in." 

Again, Air Force senior leaders are not making rules up to make you uncomfortable. They are continually striving to provide fully functional and appropriate uniforms to support all Airmen both stateside and deployed.

The final change I will address is the authorized use of personal cellular phones while walking in uniform. The funny thing about this change was that there were not many people on the fence on this issue. When announced, most people either cheered, mostly our younger Airmen, or frowned with the traditionalist. Initially the First Sergeant's Council had its colorful reservations; mainly due to the thought of Airmen not saluting or forgetting proper customs and courtesies because they were too busy using their cell phones. 

I realized we have to change with technology. No matter who you are. I-Pods, cell phones, hand-held computers, and other gadgets have only been around for a short period of time. They have not only had an impact on us individually, they have had an impact on leadership and the way we do business. So we must focus on the second part of that change message which states military customs and courtesies apply and take precedence.

Discipline is essential to unit success, but it is the self-discipline and integrity that each member displays that truly makes us the best Air Force the world has ever seen. Our senior leadership obviously believes that every servicemember will be disciplined enough to break from a phone call to render a proper salute when appropriate. Let's not prove them wrong. Maintain customs and courtesies and expect nothing less from your wingmen. 

While some of the uniform board decisions were initially unpopular with first sergeants, we, along with leaders at all levels, will adapt quickly to the change and continue with our responsibility of ensuring the Air Force gets back to the basics.