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Airmen allowed to show service colors while traveling

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (May 13, 2005) -- A new Air Force policy gives Airmen the choice to show their colors when traveling to and from deployment locations.

Airmen traveling to and from the U.S. Central Command Air Forces' area of responsibility have been, until recently, required to wear civilian clothing on flights in and out of the area.

Under a new policy, Airmen now have the option to wear their desert combat uniform on those flights. The policy change came after suggestions to both the chief of staff and chief master sergeant of the Air Force, said Senior Master Sgt. Dana Athnos, the Air Force's uniform board superintendent.

"This started with queries to Air Force senior (leaders) as they toured the AOR," Sergeant Athnos said. "This was about pride. Other services were coming home in uniform and experiencing tremendous support along the way from the American public. Our Airmen were in civilian clothes, and people didn't readily recognize them as Air Force personnel. They simply want the country to know they are proud of their service too."

The new policy allows Airmen to wear their uniforms when traveling inside the United States to their port of departure, so long as they fly aboard a U.S.-based airline. Airmen may also wear their uniforms when traveling to the AOR if they are flying on a military or chartered commercial aircraft. The same rules apply when Airmen come home.

One concern for policy makers is that Airmen remember to conduct themselves as true Air Force professionals. Sergeant Athnos said Airmen are reminded that their uniforms must always be clean and serviceable; they must be in compliance with dress and appearance instructions and always conduct themselves in a manner befitting the Air Force.

Some Airmen might want to wear their uniforms when traveling to a deployed location, but are afraid of drawing unnecessary attention to themselves.

Sergeant Athnos said U.S. airports have plenty of security, and that the Air Force has historically allowed or even required Airmen to be in uniform when aboard aircraft.

"Besides, if you were in civilian clothes, you would still have your web gear and your mobility bags with you, and you are still hanging around the (United Services Organization)," she said. "It's not a secret that you are in the military."

Also, part of the policy is a requirement that Airmen carry a change of civilian clothes with them if they choose to wear a uniform, and a clean uniform if they choose to wear civilian clothes. That kind of preparedness allows Airmen to adjust their appearance should the situation demand it.