Air Force flooded with feedback on prototypes for new uniforms

By LISA BURGESS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 27, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. — The two “heritage” uniforms offered by the Air Force Uniform Board as prototypes of a new dress uniform have been lightning rods for comment, according to the Air Force and responses sent directly to Stars and Stripes.

“This makes me think of someone going to an elegant dinner in 2006 wearing his disco leisure suit from the ’70s,” Master Sgt. Robert Laxton e-mailed Stripes from Balad, Iraq.

Laxton was referring to the lapels of the vintage World War II “Hap Arnold” prototype, which he thought were too wide.

Laxton was no fan of the other prototype, the World War I-era “Billy Mitchell” jacket with its high collar.

“It looks uncomfortable and unappealing,” he wrote.

Air Force Chaplain Marshall MacClellan e-mailed that he liked both prototypes, particularly the Hap Arnold version, which is based on the Army’s so-called “pinks and greens.”

“I have always been proud of my service in the Air Force, but the only drawback for me is the horrible, stewardess uniform or business suit we wear as dress blues,” MacClellan wrote. “How often I have said, ‘I would love for us to go back to the “pink and greens” used by the Army Air Corps’ … I also like the Billy Mitchell uniform option. The tailored fit and belt are a must for my taste.”

But for former airmen Jerry Carroll, a computer technician for Army and Air Force Exchange Service at Misawa Air Base, Japan, the prototypes are the worst of the old and the new.

“The uniforms strike a similarity to the dress uniforms worn by the WWII-era German soldiers and the material looks like something out of a Star Trek (newer series of course) episode,” Carroll e-mailed. “Luckily I no longer have to worry since I have been out for five years.”

Capt. Darrell Tegtmeyer, a health affairs officer at Phoenix Base in Iraq, said he likes the current dress uniform, and thinks the whole exercise in search of a new one is a waste of time

“I really wouldn’t like to see us bring in a new uniform and have it put in mothballs a few years later. [It’s] like bringing back bell bottoms — someone thought that was a good idea.”

If he had to choose, Tegtmeyer wrote, he had problems with the details on the prototypes, particularly the belts on both jackets.

A belt “would only draw attention to the waist line of circumferentially challenged individuals and women that have larger breast sizes,” Tegtmeyer e-mailed.

The Air Force is unveiling initial prototypes for airmen to critique, as well as circulating a detailed survey that should go out to selected airmen early this summer, according to Uniform Board members.

The board also plans to open a Web site for comments.

Meanwhile, the Air Force has an e-mail address for informal feedback on its new dress uniform: uniformfeedback@pentagon.af.mil.

Air Force officials have received more than 1,200 comments, spokeswoman Jennifer Bentley said.

Brig. Gen. Robert Allardice, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel and the general officer leading the project, “is very pleased” with the reaction, Bentley said.

“We hope they keep coming.”

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