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New utility uniform on track for distribution

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Aug. 01, 2006) -- The new Airman Battle Uniform is moving into production and on track for distribution to deploying Airmen next summer.

Patterns have been finalized and are being run through production to ensure sizing and garment construction as well as preparing for assembly-line operations, said Senior Master Sgt. Dana Athnos, the Air Force uniform board superintendent.

Senior leaders want the warfighters to get the first ABUs, and Airmen deploying in the air and space expeditionary cycle 7/8 in May 2007 will receive two sets each of the new ABU and the current deployment uniform, the Desert Combat Uniform.

Airmen embedded with Army units will get four ABU sets which lets them blend in more with their service counterparts. While the Army and the Air Force combat will look similar from a distance, the Air Force distinctive pattern includes a slate-blue shade in addition to foliage green, desert sand and urban gray shades. The pattern is pixilated or "digital" like the Marine Corps and Army but is based on a pixilated Vietnam-era tiger stripe pattern.

While the ABU has been in production for about four and a half years, the Air Force has had numerous hurdles to overcome.

The ABU is the first utility uniform designed in both male and female sizes to replace the DCU and "woodland" patterned Battle Dress Uniform. The ABU will be worn in the desert, stateside bases and in environments for which the BDU was originally designed. And it has been redesigned from the largely unpopular blue-tiger striped pattern initially fielded, most recently with additions of extra pockets, after feedback Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley got when he was visiting Airmen in Southwest Asia.

Considering the final changes and configurations were made this past January and the ABU will begin rolling off the assembly line in January 2007, Sergeant Athnos said the ABU is on track and moving forward as planned.

After distribution to Airmen deploying next summer, Airmen in basic training will be issued the ABU beginning in October 2007. Once that distribution system is in place, the ABU will be available in AAFES outlets for purchase.

The expected mandatory wear date for the ABU is 2011.