By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Nov. 04, 2004) -- When the Air Force chief of staff announced a new fitness standard in July 2003, he promised Airmen a new physical training uniform in which to prepare.
That new uniform is now ready, and Airmen serving in Southwest Asia will be the first to get them, said Senior Master Sgt. Jacqueline Dean, the Air Force uniform board superintendent.
First Lt. Megan Schafer (from left), Staff Sgt. Antwain Wright and Master Sgt. Scott Wagers show off different combinations of the new physical training uniform while jogging here during the wear-test phase. The new uniform will be issued to Airmen serving in Southwest Asia first and phased into the rest of the force over the next three years. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Efrain Gonzalez.
"The beginning of October is when the first shipment really went out," Sergeant Dean said. "(Gen. John P. Jumper) wanted us to target Airmen in Southwest Asia as the first recipients of this uniform. Some Airmen will receive the uniforms as early as the middle of November."
Officials at U.S. Central Command Air Forces designated 13 locations in their area of responsibility as needing the uniforms, Sergeant Dean said.
"For force protection issues, CENTAF (officials) wanted Airmen to be in a standardized uniform," Sergeant Dean said. "Additionally, all of the other services in the region are requiring their servicemembers to be in service-unique PT gear when they are not in another uniform."
The new unisex uniform can be worn off-the-shelf, requiring no modifications. It consists of a T-shirt, a pair of shorts and a two-piece nylon running suit. With the exception of the grey T-shirt, the entire ensemble is navy blue. It was designed with comfort and safety in mind, officials said.
"One of the biggest directions from (General Jumper) was that it had plenty of reflectivity," Sergeant Dean said.
The uniform has enough reflective material on it to ensure wearers are visible from any direction. The running suit top, a kind of lightweight coat similar to what is being used by cadets at the Air Force Academy, features wide reflective stripes that form a 'V' across the wearer's chest and back. Seams on the pants are trimmed with reflective piping, while the shorts feature both a reflective 'V' and an Air Force logo. The T-shirt has the Air Force logo on both the front and back.
Wear testing for the uniform began in January at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Three hundred Airmen tested the uniforms for both comfort and usability.
"The Air Force Clothing Office first did fit tests to make sure the patterns were correct, then went back to talk to individuals to find what they liked and didn't like about the uniforms," Sergeant Dean said. "In one case we found the lining was too long, in another case, the shorts were too full. Appropriate modifications were made based on their input. That all took place and concluded around March."
Besides reflectivity, some key features of the uniform include two pockets in the shorts; one for a military identification card and one for a key; zippers on the running pants to make it easier to slip them on over a pair of shoes, zippers on the running jacket to aid in ventilation; and a hood in the collar of the jacket.
Total cost for the new uniform is around $125. Enlisted Airmen will be given an increase in their yearly clothing allowance to purchase the uniform, those in basic military training will be issued the gear, and officers will be required to purchase the uniform with their own funds. The uniforms will eventually be available for sale in military clothing sales stores.
"We are hoping to start seeing some of the PT uniforms stateside in the January or February timeframe," Sergeant Dean said. "For now, the distribution plan revolves around those on deployment."
Sergeant Dean said there is not yet an official mandatory wear date for the uniform. When Air Force officials do set the date, Airmen will be required to maintain a complete uniform in much the same way they do their battle dress uniforms and blues.