Air Force ends mandatory 'Blues Monday,' leaves choice to commanders
By JENNIFER H. SVAN AND CHARLIE REED | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 4, 2012
Most airmen throughout the Pacific donned their battle uniforms Monday after the Air Force last week lifted the servicewide “Blues Monday” policy. Many stationed in Europe, however, seemingly were still complying with the regulation based on the sea of blue uniforms seen at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh III on Thursday told his major command commanders: “You decide what your airmen are going to wear,” Welsh’s spokesman, Lt. Col. John Sheets, said. “He’s pushed the authority down to their level.”
The commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe lifted the “Blues Monday” policy at his headquarters but gave his subordinate commanders the same choice he got; keep the policy or nix the policy, your choice.
“My commanders in the field have the same leeway and will set the policy for their individual units based on ops tempo and local conditions,” Gen. Philip Breedlove said in an email to Stars and Stripes on Friday.
On Monday, many airmen in Europe perhaps were still waiting for local commanders to make a call.
“We haven’t heard anything official,” said Master Sgt. Crystal David, one of many at Ramstein donning their blues on Monday.
Some airmen at Ramstein said they were hoping not to have to wear their blues every Monday.
“I’d rather go to ABUs,” said Senior Airman Sashia Euley, a reports and analysis clerk with the 569th Security Forces Squadron. The Air Battle Uniform, the Air Force’s camouflage battle dress uniform, is more comfortable, Euley said.
Some airmen at Ramstein still will be required to wear their blues during the warmer months. Starting next week, airmen with the 86th Airlift Wing can return to wearing their normal duty uniform, either the ABU or flight suit, on Mondays, according to a policy statement issued by wing commander Brig. Gen. Charles K. Hyde. But from May to October, airmen will wear blues on the first Monday of each month, according to the new policy.
Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, also gave his wing commanders and numbered Air Force commanders the same flexibility. Most Pacific commanders seemed to have lifted the “Blues Monday” policy, which airmen complied with but loved to complain about.
It was instituted more than four years ago as a nod to the Air Force’s attention to image, culture and professionalism.
“Post-9/11 we’ve moved away from our blue uniforms almost altogether and have transformed into an Air Force that wears our utility uniform on a daily basis,” former Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz noted in a 2008 memo instituting the policy. It applied mostly to airmen working in offices, not pilots, maintainers and others with more physical jobs.
Still, while most airmen in the Pacific no longer are required to wear their dress blues every week, they are still expected to keep them at the ready.
“Airmen who are not required to wear the blues uniform on a regular basis will still be expected to have serviceable blues uniforms ready for wear, to meet mission requirements, at any given time,” Chief Master Sgt. Douglas McIntyre, Command Chief Master Sergeant for 5th Air Force and U.S. Forces Japan told Stars and Stripes in a statement.
Some airmen said they didn’t mind the blues policy.
“You don’t have to lace up your boots,” said Tech. Sgt. Heather Mitchell, a postal air squadron transportation manager at Ramstein.
“I just slide on my shoes,” she said of the dress uniform shoes. But “ABUs are warmer.”