Air Force eliminates battle dress uniforms
Col. Brett Clark, commander of the 908th Airlift Wing, left, and several members of his wing pose in Battle Dress Uniforms, or BDUs, one last time on Monday, the last day that uniform could be officially worn. After more than 30 years in service, BDUs are history, replaced by the Airman's Combat Uniform. (Air Force photo/Lt. Col. Jerry Lobb)
by Tech. Sgt. Leisa Grant
National Guard Bureau Public Affairs
11/4/2011 - ARLINGTON, Va. -- There are two things you should no longer see -- Halloween costumes and the Air Force Battle Dress Uniform.
In 2006, the Airman Battle Uniform became authorized for wear, and a date was set for final phase-out of the woodland camouflage-patterned BDU's.
Previously announced to be effective Oct. 1, a more recent Air Force Instruction 36-2903, "Dress and Appearance of Air Force Personnel" pushed the date back to Nov. 1. This applies to all Air Force components.
Other items simultaneously entered retirement with the BDU's including the desert camouflage uniform, black T-shirt, black combat boots and tan boots with the ABU outside theater of operations.
The almost 30-year-old duty uniform, originally designed for wear throughout Europe and the Cold War, was worn by all branches of the service until 2005. Starting Tuesday, only the Navy will be authorized to wear the BDU until its set phase-out date.
Aside from its appearances, one of the major differences between the ABU and BDU is the maintenance. The new uniform requires very little care, needing only to be washed and hung for drying.
Furthermore, the boots, now a sage green, full-grain leather boot with rubber heel and toe reinforcements, do not require polishing.
Not all Airmen embraced the changes immediately.
"The (BDUs) featured solid, good-looking creases that looked great with well-shined boots," said Master Sgt. Sam Macaluso, a member of the Nevada Air National Guard 152nd Airlift Wing.
Even for those who like the creases and the spit-shined boot look, the appeal of less maintenance grew on them.
"We'd often spend our entire guard duty at night getting the perfect shine on those boots," Macaluso said. "It's nice to have boots you don't need to shine and a uniform you don't need to press constantly."
With less time spent on up keeping their uniforms, Airmen are afforded more time to focus on other aspects of their military lives.
"A big benefit is the ABU gives Airmen at schools more time to study," Macaluso said. "Discipline and standards are important, but I believe Airmen have a lot more than their uniforms to focus on these days."
Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Eric Ritter of the Nevada Air National Guard contributed to this article.