Airmen sound off on reflective-belt requirement
By MARK ABRAMSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 5, 2009
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Airmen concerned about becoming glow-in-the-dark targets are sounding off about those shiny Air Force safety belts that clash with their cammies.
Airmen — and other servicemembers — have taken their gripes and giggles about the belts to the Web by starting a Facebook page titled (what else?): “I hate reflective belts.”
Air Force policy requires the belts to be worn during reduced visibility, such as inclement weather; on a flight line; and when a commander deems necessary, said Paul Carlisle, acting deputy chief of Air Force Ground Safety, via telephone from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
They must be worn in traffic environments, whether it is on a street or in a parking lot, he said.
The purpose is to increase airmen’s visibility, Carlisle said.
And the policy applies downrange, although it’s up to the discretion of the commander, said Lt. Col. Ann Stefanek, an Air Force Pentagon spokeswoman.
Policy or not, some servicemembers don’t like having to wear something that may be fine and dandy for jogging at night or on the flight line, but is a head-scratcher when it comes to trying to blend in on a desert battlefield.
Some Facebook posters even gave the belt policy a four-letter-word salute.
Until last week, the Facebook site had about 3,600 members. After a story about it appeared on Wired’s “Danger Room” last Friday, more than 7,000 people have jumped on the anti-belt bandwagon.
“Nothing like wearing something that screams … here I am! Shoot me,” Jennie Eschbaugh wrote in her posting.
“I love when people say, ‘hey, where is your reflective belt?’ ” Tom Walsh chimed in. “My only logical response is, ‘wait … you can see me?’ ”
“We must ask ourselves … would Gen. George Patton want his troops wearing these?” Brandon Erickson wrote.
“I’m just thinking of the day when we wear so much reflective material that we literally glow. ... Someone should get a hold of as many reflective belts as they can in different colors and put them all on.”
Others bemoaned having to wear the belts at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan; at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and in Kuwait.
Air Force officials said they don’t have an official view on the Facebook page.
“We have obviously seen it as a result of Wired,” said Stefanek. “It is interesting to look and see what our airmen’s opinions are on different items.”
Stefanek added that the Air Force views personal Web sites and blogs positively and it respects the rights of airmen to use them as a medium of self-expression. While there is no current guidance specifically outlining engagement via social media, Air Force instructions provide guidance on appropriate public behavior.
But Air Force officials said airmen can be admonished or face nonjudicial punishment for not wearing the belts when required.
Airmen at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, had mixed views about the flashy uniform accessory.
They wanted to remain anonymous to avoid any backlash from higher-ups.
“I think it’s OK to wear at night. Technically, right now, I would have to wear it because it’s overcast,” one beltless airman said.
Another airman said he got ripped for not wearing his belt when he walked to the Chili’s restaurant on base.
And one of his battle buddies called the belts “ridiculous.”
Although many of the airmen interviewed weren’t wearing their safety belts, they certainly were packing ’em.
“It makes sense. It’s the law,” said Staff Sgt. Dagoberto Ramirez.
Airmen wearing reflective belts stand on the flight line Monday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Some airmen’s dislike of the belt requirement has sparked a Facebook page titled: “I hate reflective belts.” Policy or not, some servicemembers don’t like having to wear something when it comes to trying to blend in on a desert battlefield.
BEN BLOKER / S&S