Morale: Low Maintenance Uniforms Inspire the Troops


November 14, 2007: The new U.S. Air Force ABU (Airman Battle Uniform) is only being issued to airmen headed for combat zones, but is supposed to be in the air force military clothing stores by the end of the year. Wearing the ABU won't be mandatory until 2011 (to give everyone time to wear out the existing work uniforms). But air force personnel are spending their own money to buy foreign knockoffs of the ABU, which are available on the Internet. The new uniform is that popular. Some of these knockoff s are not up to spec, so the air force discourages (but does not forbid) buying from these sources. The troops are eager to get the new ABU, with its tan, gray, green and blue camouflage pattern, mainly because of the low maintenance aspects. The ABU is permanent press, wash and wear and more comfortable to wear. Not ironing needed, and you cannot use starch on them. The new boots that go with the ABU are suede green, and cannot be polished. That's another big draw. Basically, the ABU is popular because it's less work, not because it's got a snappy new camouflage pattern. The ABU goes for about $82 a set (jacket and trousers) on the net. Many of these sites have a 1-2 week backlog.

Meanwhile, troops in Iraq have found the new ABUs warmer than the older uniforms, mainly because of the thicker wash and wear fabric, and the large map pocket on the inside. Some airmen have been going to local tailors to have the map pocket removed, to make the ABU cooler. The air force is already onto this problem, and has a tropical weight ABU on the way. In the meantime, the troops do what they've always done; improvise.


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