The 87th Air Base Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is reviving a tradition most of the Air Force left behind almost three years ago: requiring airmen to wear their blues uniform one day per week.
In a Nov. 13 release, the 87th said most service members must wear their blues uniform — or in the case of troops from other services assigned to the 87th, their service's equivalent — every Wednesday beginning this week. Troops at the 87th will continue to wear their utility uniform or flight suit other days of the week. The policy only affects service members assigned to the 87th, and not other Air Force units at the joint base.
"Military image, tradition and heritage are tied closely with our service uniform," Col. Frederick Thaden, commander of the 87th and McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, said in the release. "This new policy allows us to celebrate that heritage and ensure our people reflect the professionalism of their service."
Troops whose duties require them to wear a utility uniform or flight suit will be exempt from the mandatory blues policy at their unit commander's discretion, the release said. Maintainers and security forces airmen are among those likely to be exempted, base spokesman Maj. Omar Villarreal said.
But this policy has proved controversial in the past.
The Air Force has swung back and forth between requiring blues, and allowing airmen to wear more comfortable and less formal airman battle uniforms. Blues were the standard uniform for airmen until the Sept. 11 attacks, after which then-Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper told airmen working in the Pentagon to dress for battle.
By summer 2003, airmen had returned to wearing blues on a daily basis. But in late 2005, incoming Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley ordered Pentagon staff to wear ABUs because he felt too many had forgotten their primary mission of supporting the war fighter.
Former Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz instituted a mandatory Blues Monday after taking over in 2008. By that time, many airmen had grown used to wearing ABUs and chafed under the new rule. Some complained that the blues were uncomfortable; others said that requiring blues hindered airmen's ability to do their jobs if they had to go on guard duty, lift something heavy or fix something without warning. Sometimes doing those jobs damaged airmen's blues enough that they had to buy replacements.
The rule also meant airmen had to spend more of their own money to dry-clean their blues and maintain their uniforms, such as replacing ribbons or other small, worn-out items.
Current Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh rescinded that forcewide mandatory Blues Monday policy in November 2012, shortly after he succeeded Schwartz. Welsh left it up to commanders to decide on their own whether to require mandatory blues. Most did not. Global Strike Command at first said it would continue the policy, but by the end of December 2012 it had changed course and announced it would not require blues.
The 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst already requires airmen to wear their blues the last duty day of every month, Villarreal said, but other Air Force organizations there have no policy on blues. The other organizations are not planning to change their policies, he said.