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Air Force Considers Replacing the BDU

Distinctive Utility Uniform to Undergo Wear Test

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Updated August 07, 2003

Air Force officials are considering an Air Force-distinctive uniform to replace the current battle dress uniform, according to service officials. A fit and wear test of the uniform is pending, officials said. The test will determine the best direction to respond to Air Force needs for a 21st century utility uniform.

Many new Air Force uniform items show up in the field before becoming available in military clothing sales stores.

This debut, in the form of “wear tests,” usually lasts from six months to one year but can be extended based upon the complexity of the uniform and feedback from testers, according to Master Sgt. Ruth Nischwitz, chief of the Air Force uniform section at the Pentagon.

Wear testing of new uniform items allows the Air Force to check how well the items wear, their durability, ease of maintenance and their level of comfort.

“We encourage those people who wear test these items to give us both positive and negative feedback,” Sergeant Nischwitz said. “We need both to ensure any necessary improvements are made before that item is finalized and available for purchase.”

Testers are selected from airmen of all ranks at designated test locations. This provides Air Force uniform officials with feedback from people with a wide variety of day-to-day experiences.

However, the lower ranking testers occasionally have one complaint that more senior ranking testers seem to avoid.

“Not many people confront colonels or generals about their authorization to wear an unfamiliar test item, but airmen occasionally do get challenged,” she said. “It’s usually easily resolved but we try to avoid it from even happening by getting the word out to people at the test bases that certain items are currently being evaluated.”

Test bases are chosen based upon the size of their military population, their proximity to the service’s clothing designers at the Air Force Clothing Division, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and the type of uniform item being tested.

For example, the Air Force would select a base located in a cold climate to evaluate a new parka instead of one in a warmer climate.

At the conclusion of the wear test, Air Force leaders will review the feedback and input from testers and a decision will be made to implement all, some or none of the test uniform.

[Guide Note: SIRPHREA1, a member of our Message Forum is stationed at Robins AFB, in Georgia. He recently attended an "Enlisted Call" which was conducted by the visiting Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (CMSAF Murray). According to the briefing, the "wear test" will begin in January (2004) and Robins AFB will be one of the three bases that conducts the test. The proposed uniform will consist of a blue uniform shirt (like the Navy's) with "tiger camo" print on it, blue pants, black boots, and black belt. The only things sewn on the uniform will be AF Tape, Name Tape, and Occupational badges (no unit or MAJCOM patches). The shirt will be tucked in, as is the Navy's Utility Uniform. The uniform isn't ironed or starched, as it has permament creases, and ironing and/or starching will ruin those creases.]

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