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AFCENT Updates Dress And Appearance Instruction; Does This Signal Changes Coming Air Force-Wide?

AFCENT has published a major update to USAFCENTI-36-2903, “Dress and Appearance of AFCENT Air Force Personnel”. AFCENT is the air arm of US central Command and if there’s a part of the USAF that is at war 24/7, this is it. With even just a casual look at this Instruction, you can see that it is completely operationally focused, with no mention of dress uniforms. While we offer a summary of changes below, the biggest change is the guidance regarding wear of MultiCam/OCP uniforms.

The following uniforms are authorized as the Uniform of the Day (UOD) for Airmen assigned throughout AFCENT: the Airman Combat Uniform (ACU – previously referred to as multi-cam or OCP), the Fire Resistant-Airman Combat Uniform (FR-ACU), the Desert Flight Duty Uniform (DFDU), or the Airman Aircrew Combat Uniform (A2CU).

This is obviously great news for Middle-East-bound Airmen, but its timing makes us wonder if this is the first of a major uniform and camouflage change for the entire Air Force.

Based on conversations during base visits by CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright, like the one to Hurlburt seen above, rumors have been flying that the Air Force will soon announce a switch from the ill-named Airman Battle Uniform, in service since 2006, to the Army Combat Uniform and its Operational Camouflage Pattern.

According to USAFCENTI-36-2903, that uniform is now referred to as the Airman Combat Unifom when worn by Air Force personnel. While AFCENT has specified a wearout date for the legacy ABU of October 2018, that is only specific guidance for Airmen deploying to the CENTCOM AOR. If the USAF does in fact adopt the ACU, the wearout date across the service will most likely be in the 2020s. Likewise, AFCENT’s requirement that Airmen deploy in OCP uniforms only in 2018, may foreshadow an Air Force-wide change beginning the same year.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ronnie Birge, mission crew commander assigned to the 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron, studies his computer monitor during a mission aboard an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft out of Al Udeid, Air Base, Qatar, July 27, 2017. The E-8C JSTARS aircraft and crew provide essential battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider/Released)

Major Revisions to AFCENTI 36-2903:
– Expanded wear guidance of the Airman Combat Uniform (ACU), all variations, which were previously referred to as OCPs, Multicam, or Scorpion Pattern
– Clarified guidance for ACU wear of patches, badges and insignias
– Clarification on the prohibition to mix and match camouflage patterns
– Clarification of the wear of rings
– Standard Uniform Postures have been removed but may be addressed in local guidance
– Authorized AEW or AEG/CCs to dictate wear of Airman Combat Shirt (ACS) for those who work outdoors
– Authorized ball caps with ACUs
– Mandated wear of Commanders Insignia Pin

AFCENT will mandate AOR-wide wear of the ACU (non Fire Resistant version) in 2018 with further implementation timeline to follow.

I’ve been discussing the possibility of a major duty uniform change for the Air Force with fellow Veteran C Combs, and he shared his thoughts on this Instruction.

He notes that Air Force functional badges aren’t commonly available in OCP, and that such an undertaking certainly points to an Air Force-wide transition. In fact, the functional badge featured in the illustration in AFCENTI 36-2903 had to be digitally created.


Additionally, he made mention of the return of Ball Caps which harken back to the Squadron ball caps of the 80s and 90s. Although, these certainly have a 21st century twist. Better make sure those are Berry compliant caps, AFCENT A4. That cap in the illustration looks suspiciously like it came from China.

Other Air Force personnel have noted the return of Unit insignia, a practice which went away with the adoption of the ABU. Between that and the retiring of unit ball caps there was little opportunity for personnel to show unit pride.

Airmen will also be allowed to wear earned FWSSI, or as more commonly known, combat patches on their new ACUs. Like the Army, they will also wear an American flag on the right sleeve of their uniform.

The Instruction also notes that “any ACU pattern uniform previously issued or acquired at no cost to the government should be worn by AFCENT personnel” which leaves plenty of room for unit issued uniforms by various manufacturers in MultiCam, as in the case of AFSOC and many Battlefield Airmen AFSCs. Let’s hope the AFI, when published, is as flexible.

Also, Sleeves may be cuffed up or folded under at the wrist. This is entirely too accommodating!

One issue did seem odd. While AFCENTI 36-2903 details which color thread can be used for insignia, they left out the color of thread for 1st LT, Capt, LT Col and Col, as well as the General Officer ranks. This color is probably the missing fourth color.


Probably the best thing about this Instruction is that it drives the nail in the coffin of both the ABU and 8-point hat for wear by Airmen in a combat theater.

On a final note, it’s great to see that neither “blouse” nor “cover” were used in the Instruction. Thank you to the author(s).

Get your copy here.

38 Responses to “AFCENT Updates Dress And Appearance Instruction; Does This Signal Changes Coming Air Force-Wide?”

  1. straps says:

    Those ball caps will be popular…

  2. Hoff says:

    Not that it is a mystery but it does state what color O rank should be. Officer rank will be Black except 2Lt and Maj, which will be Spice Brown.

  3. Ray Forest says:

    Imagine that. Soon we will be back to 2001 when joy the Marines were in a different uniform.

  4. 32sbct says:

    I wonder if this is the next step in finally getting the whole DOD back to one uniform pattern again. If the Army and AF are both in the same uniform, I’m guessing that is probably about 60 % or better of the entire force (active,Guard, Reserve). Back in the day the BDU was fine for everyone before the cammo wars started.

    • PNWTO says:

      Doubtful, the USMC will fight for MARPAT in the trenches. Would be nice to see the Marine issue kit in a pattern rather than CB though.

      I think that general-issuing Multicam kit and unforms with MC Arid and Tropic uniforms for regional issue would have been ideal but we are far from that.

  5. Chuck says:

    The one thing that still stalls the full implementation of this is…

    3.4.1. The ABU is an alternate uniform for all personnel unable to obtain the ACU.

    Funding is going to be the big thing for the Commands sending people to CENTCOM and who will be able to “obtain” the ACU. Dealing with this right now in fact. Fingers crossed we can get the go ahead to purchase. I think this is a great step forward and will happily deal with this issue now if it means down the road service wide implementation.

    • SSD says:

      That’s until 2018, which begins one month from now.

      • Chuck says:

        That’s very wishful thinking. Even in “good” years we don’t get our funding until almost the end of the first quarter. Then if the Command says, “ehhh not your rotation” we will fall under 3.4.1.

        I’m hoping I’m wrong and I can outfit my people. This all reminds me of the few years we were able to wear the ABSG uniform.

        • SSD says:

          Despite not having “any money”
          People still go TDY and mission essential equipment is still purchased.

          • CHUCK says:

            The cash for multicam/ACU comes from a separate charge account not tied into the same account as the ABU. So, if a Wing goes from only spending a few thousand a year on a dozen people needing the uniform to hundreds needing the uniform, you can imagine it will be a strain the first year. I want this uniform, however it’s taken over a year to get new IOTV’s…so the realistic approach is to assume the ABU is what we’ll be stuck with and then when the ACU purchase drops, be pleasantly surprised.

            • SSD says:

              Squadrons won’t pay for a full uniform transition. Airmen will use their annual clothing allowance.

              • CHUCK says:

                If an Airman needs a complete uniform, or a replacement it is currently handled via a system through LRS. Airmen don’t go out and purchase their own (to include boots). If one of their 4 ABU uniforms is damaged they head to their supply NCO who completes the paperwork to submit to LRS. Couple weeks later the uniform item comes in. To get stripes etc sewn on we hand out a letter and the Airmen gets them done for free. This system is used for ALL uniforms from Blues to PT gear. Heck, we even get the APECS and winter gloves via this process. No more hoping the Airmen spends the uniform money on uniforms. Now they can go out and spend their cash on extra items, but the base lines are covered.

                For the ACU if their line remarks state they need it, LRS will bust out the deployment funds card and start the process to get them the required uniform. however it is not done through the same system as the ABU.

                Now if we transition to the ACU service wide then the procurement process would go through the everyday LRS process. Right now though it is handled with this special card.

                • CHUCK says:

                  I should specify that this is how AFRC handles uniform issue and upkeep.

                • SSD says:

                  Active duty, the Airman buys replacement clothing bag items. That’s what the clothing allowance is for. Reservists and Guard members don’t get a clothing allowance. Their uniforms are issued in kind.


                  • Chuck says:

                    Same deal though if they deploy and the ABU isn’t the uniform. The line remarks drive the purchase through the Wing Deployment Center. Now “when” (hopefully soon) the ACU becomes our UOD everywhere, the allowance (AD of Reservists serving on long term orders) and the LRS issue system will come into play. I remember in 2011 (On AD) we were sized and the uniforms were sent to us during our weeks at pre-deployment at Creech. Sucked for the guys that the shipments got to Creech after they left and then had to do their first few weeks in the horrible ABU.

  6. d says:

    It’s hard enough to decipher Air Force rank when it’s in large print format on the sleeves. Near impossible when it’s that small on the chest.

    • SSD says:

      Only one is going to be triggered if you don’t call him, “Chief”.

      • Billy says:

        And THE “Chief” is a dental assistant! So watch out during your next root canal regardless of uniform!

        “Chief Wright enlisted in the Air Force in March of 1989 and his background includes various duties in the dental career field.”

        From his official USAF biography.

  7. Joe says:

    I’d like to see an Airman wearing this ball cap next to a Soldier wearing a Patrol Cap.

    I know the Army’s “Cap, Field, HW” was highly disliked, yet “tactical caps” are all the rage, and now in use in the USAF.

    It might be time for a substitute-standard for Army headgear.
    Then again, black beret, UCP, 7.62 NATO service rifle… not exactly a great track record.

    • Bobby says:

      Army regs do allow for unit specific ball caps…at the discretion of the command.

    • R. Burgundy says:

      Can confirm; currently in theater & wearing ball cap. Army types gaze upon us with their disdainful, jealous, and self-loathing eyes. Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

  8. Moshjath says:

    Now if only we could go back to the original shoulder pocket pattern. I can’t stand the current backwards slanting version, or the side zipper. Ideal would be the version they are going to trial on the new jungle uniform, forward slanted and secured with a single button. Another nice feature from that uniform is the usage of buttons in place of a zipper and Velcro in the front.

    • Adun says:

      I would still want velcro for the cuffs of the blouse. Buttons don’t allow for enough adjustability and always seemed to let debris into my sleeves. There is also the consideration of the front pockets, if closed by buttons, causing pressure points when worn under body armor. The main opening of the blouse being secured by buttons didn’t really seem to cause a problem with this for me, but they have to be covered in the front by fabric to prevent them from ripping off when crawling around and the like.

      My experience with button secured uniforms comes from the IDF, so we even had epaulets on our uniforms still, and those were definitely a pain when rucking for hours on end.

  9. Joe says:

    AFI 36-2903 Has recently come out with a change allowing the wear of the OCP A2CU at MAJCOM/ A3 approval. Come on big AF, make the change already!

  10. Brian says:

    It specified that Officer ranks except 2d Lt and Major (which are spice brown) will be black. I missed that the first time reading through it.

  11. SN says:

    Awesome, now the non-deploying REMF’s at 9th AF/AFCENT (Shaw AFB) can run around in Multicam and be “special”.

    Good move if it goes service-wide, but I am cynical about implementation for now. I think the AFCENT folks were jealous of the ARCENT folks (same base) wearing MC, so the boss changed the regs.

    AF can’t go MC until all the ABU stocks are fielded.

    • SSD says:

      Not exactly, it just has a plan. It has direct DLA to stop buying ABUs and to purchase additional ACUs. At some point the service will have to buyout whatever ABUs are left. It can help deal with that by allowing it to be worn longer.

  12. Stefan S. says:

    AF in camouflage. Still makes me laugh. Like the dude fixing the F-22 needs to blend in.

    • R. Burgundy says:

      It’s a uniform; it’s no different than the Army POG’s sitting behind computers for the duration of their careers.

    • SSD says:

      Well that TACP does, and that PJ, and that LRS Airmen on a truck convoy and that SF Airman patrolling the perimeter, and so on.

  13. EODFish says:

    My only complaint is that I have nothing to complain about. Rock on AFCENT.

  14. JK says:

    Any indication on the shade of the boots? Tan vs sage green?

    • Defensor says:

      Phase out date of tan is 2018, so I’d assume we would go with whatever color the Army is wearing.