Independence with uniforms: Wear them proudly

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
As most men and women in the Air Force should know, the Air Force was once part of the Army Air Corps. Due to a highly independent role in World War II, officials wanted formal separation from the Army. Then on Sept. 18, 1947, through the National Security Act of 1947, the Air Force became a separate branch.

After the branch's separation from the Army, its members were still wearing uniforms nearly identical to the U.S. Army. Only a short couple years later, the service developed an Air Force-specific blue dress uniform. Although the Air Force's utility uniforms, or fatigues, were the same as Army fatigues with the exception of insignia, the dress blues were the branch's first step toward independence. It actually wasn't until 2011 that the Air Force developed service-specific fatigues.

But why is this important?

The members of the world's most powerful Air Force can be identified just by a set of unique clothing items. But to me, the most important part of the uniforms is the fact that we're wearing a part of the service's history. We're telling a part of the Air Force's story just by putting on a uniform every single day - and that, to me, is one of the greatest things about our uniforms.
The uniforms we wear today tell this story - one that dates back to 1947 at the service's separation from the Army. The uniqueness of our outfits defines not only our independence as a branch of the United States military, but as becoming an important part of the success of the Armed Forces.

Those who serve in the Armed Forces today are frequently referred to by the general public as the "men and women in uniform." So, it could be arguably said that the uniforms we, as Airmen, wear every day have also come to partly define the very meaning of being a military member.

When each Airman puts on their Airman Battle Uniform, flight suit, dress blues, physical training gear or even deployed location fatigues, they're identifying themselves to everyone around them as a (stereotypically) disciplined, well-mannered, trustworthy and responsible adult. The fact that just one set of our clothes can have such an impact on the nation is the reason dress and appearance standards, outlined in Air Force Instruction 36-2903, are set high and strictly enforced for all Air Force members.

The proper way to wear an Air Force uniform is defined in these standards as well as the overall presentation of both male and female members on duty. Everything from the order of awards and decorations on dress blues to the can and can not's of female hair in uniform is outlined and at the hands of all Air Force members to reference.

Although having all buttons buttoned and all zippers zipped is important within these standards, dress and appearance is much more than that. According to, the word "uniform" means "without variations in detail," and even as young Airmen, we're constantly reminded to pay attention to all details.

By planting this idea of perfecting even the smallest details of everything Airmen do on a day-to-day basis, leaders can trigger their desire to do so. Then, with the majority of this service's most important asset - its people - perfecting every aspect of their responsibilities, this nation's Air Force can remain the most powerful in the world.

Adhering to all standards set by AFI 36-2903 is just one way Airmen can practice and stay on top of their ability to notice and perfect every inch of their roles in the Air Force. If an Airman takes the time to know and follow the dress and appearance standards, it can be safely assumed that they are just as knowledgeable in their career field. In other words, proper dress and appearance gives an Airman their credibility, both to other members of the Air Force and the general public.

Take for example an Airman who works in the Explosive Ordinance Disposal career field. Let's say that a civilian discovered an unexploded ordinance on their property and the nearest military EOD team responded. If the team showed up to his/her property dressed in untied boots, stained blouses and unbuttoned pants, the owner may not trust them to properly dispose of the ordinance.

People are frequently told to not judge a "book" by its cover, but it's almost human nature to do exactly that. And since the Air Force's "book" is printed with words like powerful and trustworthy the service can't afford to have its cover - the men and women in uniform - be anything but perfect.