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NEWS | Jan. 22, 2007

Enforcing AF standards important for all

By Master Sgt. Shawna Lukkes 437th Comptroller Squadron first sergeant

How many times have you seen someone in uniform go by and they were not wearing the uniform correctly? Have you ever corrected someone? I can bet not many people have actually corrected others who were wearing the uniform incorrectly.

I remember when I was a young Airman how difficult it was to walk up to someone I didn't even know and try to politely tell them they weren't wearing the uniform properly. I also remember a first sergeant told me one day that "every time you fail to enforce a standard, you just implemented a new one."

As members of the United States Air Force, we are to look professional in our uniforms at all times. We should all take pride in wearing the uniform correctly. Whether you are the wing commander's assistant or are working on the flightline, you should always take pride in your uniform.

As I've walked around the many bases I've been to, I've seen several individuals who carry backpacks that are not within the intent of the instruction. In accordance with Air Force Instruction 36-2903, "Attaché` case, gym bag, backpack are to be carried in left hand, on left shoulder, or on both shoulders (so as not to interfere with rendering a proper salute). Attaché cases are to be black only; gym bags are to be black or dark blue and backpacks are to be only solid-colors. Black backpacks may be worn with any blue uniform combinations and solid-color black, olive drab, or woodland camouflage are the only colors authorized with the BDU. Now for you deployers, you can carry the desert backpacks, but only when wearing DCUs.

Another common violation of the regulation I often see is women who carry purses or hand bags. In table 2-3 rule 17 of the AFI, it states "hand bags must be plain black leather or vinyl without ornamentation, with or without plain fold-over flap and with or without single-placed silver or gold-colored clasp. A purse or shoulder bag may have up to two adjustable shoulder straps with or without buckles." I often see purses that have white stitching. Sorry ladies, but this is not "plain black." Something of note to you ladies that wear the mess dress uniform is that a small clutch or carry type purse with straps may be carried with the mess dress.

Sunglasses have always been a difficulty. I may be dating myself but I remember seeing the movie "Top Gun" and all the pilots with the cool mirrored sunglasses. Sorry folks, that's not allowed in the Air Force. Also, ornamentations and faddish designs are forbidden, however, here may be a small logo on sunglasses now. Sunglasses are to be taken off when not in use (not tipped up on the head, dangling from a shirt or flight suit pocket or dangling from a cord) and the lenses should be flat black, not high gloss.

Last but not least, the cell phone or personal digital assistant. Cell phones and PDAs, "Must be solid or covered in black, silver, dark blue, or gray, and must be conservative. May be clipped to the left side of the waistband or purse or carried in left hand. Only one may be worn on the uniform belt. Members will not walk in uniform while using cell phones, radios or hands-free headsets unless required in the performance of official duties using a government issued device." The key there is official duties. Now that we have these wonderful hands-free devices that attach to the ear, some people may think that it's OK to walk around with that on. That is not a part of your uniform so you cannot wear this as you are walking around in uniform.

All of these are pretty simple to follow. As a member of the United States Air Force, it's our responsibility to follow all the rules, regulations and instructions that are out there. AFI 36-2903, Personal Appearance, is just one of those instructions but it's a very important one. Every time you are looked at by a fellow Airman, a member of one of our sister services and a civilian (remember they pay our salary) you are representing the entire Air Force. Do us proud.

Make sure you read up on AFI 36-2903 periodically, to keep yourself informed with the new changes and to uphold your professional appearance. And remember what that first sergeant told me all those years ago, "Every time you fail to enforce a standard, you just implemented a new one."