The Air Force will use up its stock of Army camouflage uniforms before airmen deployed downrange get the Army's new combat uniform, said Ruth Ewalt, chief of Air Force Uniform Programs and Policies.
While the Army plans to start issuing its new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform to its deployed soldiers before the end of 2015, airmen, who wear Army uniforms when deployed to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations, will get their new combat uniforms incrementally over the next one to two years, Ewalt told Air Force Times on Tuesday.
About 27,000 airmen are deployed worldwide, according to the Air Force.
Rather than issuing the new uniforms to all deployed airmen on a given date, airmen will get the new uniforms over time when their current uniforms become unserviceable and need to be replaced and when the Air Force no longer has their sizes in its inventory of the current camouflage pattern.
The plan is to phase out the current stock of camouflage uniforms through attrition, Ewalt explained. The new uniforms will become available based on which sizes of the current uniforms go out of stock first, she said.
"The core sizes, of course, are the sizes that the majority of the general population wear," Ewalt said. "Those attrit out faster than the peripheral sizes. If you're a Size 1, then there's probably going to be a supply of those [current uniforms] available a little bit longer than if you're a core size."
Because there will be an overlap of the current and OCP uniforms being available, it is possible that some airmen might inadvertently mix the two, Ewalt said. For example, an airman may need to replace his or her trousers without exchanging his or her shirt.
While the uniforms are similar enough that mixing the two should not be an issue, it is worth replacing the entire uniform because the built-in safety protections degrade over time, Ewalt said.
"If you were issued a uniform in theater two years ago and you wore the trousers out and you still had the shirt and it was still in serviceable condition — but it was two years old and it's been through multiple washings, etc., etc. — you might want to consider getting a new shirt too because the [flame resistant] properties and the other textiles technologies that are built into them, they are not indefinite," she said.
Airmen will not have to pay for the new uniforms, Ewalt said.
"The combat uniforms are not sold through [the Army and Air Force Exchange Service]," she said. "Combat uniforms are issued through their unit. If they're already in theater, they should be able to get their replacements there."
The OCP pattern will not become the Air Force's in-garrison uniform, Ewalt said. The Airman Battle Uniform will remain the service's utility uniform.