ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
On Nov. 1, 2011, every Airman was required to begin wearing the Airman Battle Uniform, officially phasing out the Battle Dress Uniform. That day was the result of a four-year phase-in period allowing Airmen sufficient time to buy the new uniform.
Now seven years later, the ABU is about to begin its phasing-out cycle. After whispers and rumors of the Air Force transitioning to the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform, an email was sent to Airmen by Air Force leaders saying the rumors were correct. Soon after, the Air Force released a timeline of the new phase-in period.
“We looked at all utility uniforms currently in our inventory to find the best-of-breed,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein. “We spoke to and listened to Airmen on this, and the OCP was the clear choice.”
The first day of that period is fast approaching. Oct. 1, 2018 is the day that serviceable OCP uniforms can be worn.
Airmen at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. are able to buy new OCPs at their Base Exchange. Army Post Exchanges will not sell OCPs to Airmen.
While many Airmen have worn the OCPs and already have the uniform, the phase-in brings with it new regulations on the wear of the uniform.
For Airmen who do not have OCPs, it is recommended by higher leadership that they only buy the uniform from official AAFES locations.
AFI 36-2903 “Dress and Appearance” has been updated on the basic wear of the uniform, but there is more up-to-date information from the Air Force Personnel Center via their website and Facebook pages.
For instance, while coyote brown boots are authorized in OCPs, tan boots may be worn until June 1, 2020.
Desert sand colored T-shirts are authorized until June 1, 2020. After then, t-shirts must be tan or coyote brown.
One of the more prolific features of OCPs are patches. According to AFPC, a flag on the right sleeve is the first mandatory patch. The flag may be black and green or spice brown, and past June 1, 2020, the flag must be spice brown.
While higher headquarter patches are available and can be worn on the right sleeve, the options and regulations on the type of patch are still in development. The proper patch will eventually be issued to units.
Members of a wing, group or squadron will have patches developed by an Airman and will be worn on the left sleeve.
Certain non-unit organizational entities will be permitted to wear a patch as well, however those patches will have to be independently designed, funded and created. These patches will have to follow the color scheme and rules laid out in future AFIs and be approved by the base historian.
Velcro and sew-on nametapes and rank are both authorized, but it must be one or the other. A nametape is required to be placed on the back of the patrol cap via Velcro or sewing, although it does not have to be attached in the same fashion as the OCP coat.
Air Force specialty code badges are available in OCP colors and can be worn on the uniform as well, with the same Velcro or sewn-on option. This also does not have to match the rest of the OCP coat.
Women’s OCPs will become available as soon as there is sufficient supply. They are expected to hit shelves Feb. 19, 2019.
Lastly, ABU and OCP uniform items do not mix. It is against AFI to wear ABU items such as an ABU fleece jacket with OCPs. Cold weather gear for OCPs are expected to become available in spring of 2019, with a focus on northern bases first.
AFPC has made a few announcements on changing regulations, and the most up-to-date information will be found on their website through updated AFIs and graphics.
Airmen who are not familiar with the wear of the OCP can ask other Airmen who have worn it before about proper wear. The transitions between different uniforms in the past have been filled with mistakes and misconceptions, so past wearers of the OCP should guide Airmen new to the uniform on any mistakes.
As always, be a Wingman and help prevent violations of AFI 36-2903 to ensure the proper wear of the uniform.
Regardless of what uniform Airmen wear, it is important to show the pride and professionalism that goes along with it. Whether it is in BDUs, ABUs, or OCPs, it is up to Airmen to show the world the professional appearance of the world’s greatest Air Force.