Air Force maintainers get new ‘janitor gray’ coveralls

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A leaked Air Force PowerPoint slide gave Airmen an overview of suits that aircraft maintainers will be able to wear to and from base, on the flight line and in other areas where they could not. previously.

The slide comes seven months after the Air Force officially announced the policy change for suits in June 2021. Prior to that, maintainers and other Airmen who worked in dirty jobs (such as fuels, firefighting, ammunition and engineering) often had to drive on base in their camouflage uniforms, put on their coveralls when they arrived, then put them back in camouflage when they left. But soon they will be able to save time by wearing these standardized suits almost everywhere.

According to the slides, Airmen authorized to wear the maintenance duty uniform can wear it when commuting to and from work, at all locations on base, during short convenience stops off base, or when eat in restaurants where people wear “comparable civilian attire”. .”

There are some limitations: the MDU cannot be worn “for office work environments, non-industrial or non-professional tasks,” the powerpoint says. It also cannot be worn “in restaurants where most diners wear business attire or in establishments that primarily serve alcohol.” This makes sense because the same rules apply to Air Force camouflage utility and flight suit uniforms.

MDUs are one of many changes the Air Force has made to improve the quality of life for Airmen. Last year, the service broke with its sister services when it announced it would allow airmen to stick their hands in their pockets while in uniform. Other changes included the ability to use a cellphone or drink water while marching in uniform; new physical training uniforms; standards on longer hair and hair accessories; cosmetic tattooing for men; and wear morale patches on Fridays or during special events.

“We trust our Airmen, NCOs and commanders with incredible resources and significant responsibilities and we will need to do so even more as we prepare for future conflicts,” said Army Lt. Gen. Air Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, in a statement in August. “We also hope they can understand what it takes and what it means to maintain the standards without specifying the exact behavior in each situation.”

An Air Force veteran said MDU is a good step for aircraft maintainers.

The service “making it an official uniform for maintenance is great because it will save people time if they are allowed to wear them to and from work,” said a former crew chief. a C-130 transport plane at Task & Purpose.

The catch is that some people have a problem with the color, which PowerPoint describes as “sage”, but most viewers describe as gray or green.

“Well, they look like if I were to vomit and turn that color into an MDU, that would be it,” an F-15 fighter jet official told Task & Purpose. Other observers were of a similar opinion.

“Had to go with that gray janitor,” wrote a commenter reacting to the news on the popular Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, where the slide was first shared.

A leaked Air Force PowerPoint presentation included a slide showing the maintenance suits worn by other services. (Facebook / Air Force amn/nco/snco)

It’s not that reviewers disagreed with the color purely for aesthetic reasons. Since gray is a light color, maintainers said that stains show up more easily in it, which means that MDUs will very quickly become “unusable”, i.e. too dirty or worn out.

“Hydraulic fluid, grease, oil and carbon or dirt make everything black. It’s hard to clean,” said the C-130 crew chief. “Darker colors tend to hide these spots better.”

Still, he says, at least it’s not tanned, which shows the spots even more easily.

“I don’t understand the logic behind this color,” wrote one commenter on Facebook. “Not a single person on the board thought hydraulic fluid, fuel, grease, sealants, etc. would look much worse on a light green uniform than on a dark blue or black?”

As if to emphasize this point, a slide comparing the grey/green MDU to suits worn by other services made it clear that green or blue is the preferred color of the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and even of the Prime Minister of the Air Force. air display team, the Thunderbirds.

The Air Force could not immediately respond to questions about why gray-green was chosen for the MDU. It might not be the end of the world though: some cleaners don’t even wear coveralls.

“Most guys I know don’t wear coveralls, we’d rather just wear Dickies pants and call it a day,” the F-15 manager said. “It’s user preference. There’s nothing wrong with the jumpsuits, but if they removed the vomit color scheme, I feel like everyone at maintenance would appreciate it.

“I prefer a two-piece myself, but a wetsuit isn’t a bad option either if we’re allowed to wear jackets and layers over-the-top, and able to roll the top half in the summer” , said the C-130 crew chiefs.

Air Force maintainers get new 'janitor gray' coveralls
Staff Sgt. Taylor West, an F-15 crew chief deployed to the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing, corrects a malfunction above the aircraft shortly before takeoff, Sept. 17, 2020. The mission was not delayed and was carried out thanks to the quick action of West. (US Air National Guard photo by Sgt. Jonathan Young)

Either way, it’s better than staining your operational camo uniform.

“The overriding thing for me is that this is purely functional clothing,” said a former F-16 fighter jet official. “They’re for carrying so you don’t ruin the ‘utility’ uniform (which hydraulic fluid will easily do).”

The only time he and his fellow managers were “encouraged” to wear their utility uniforms was “if we were doing some sort of special VIP plane ride or someone special was flying,” like a colonel or another high-ranking officer.

Outside of the flight line, it was usually just utilities.

“We were always told to go to work and come back in plainclothes or utility/aircraft combat uniform. The suits were very strictly ‘on the job,'” the F-16 official said. “It may have been for dog and pony show purposes and not strict regulations, but that’s what I’ve always followed. Show up in uniform for roll call, put on a wetsuit, then get to work.

The old coveralls policy contrasts with the policy of flight duty uniforms, the zippered green or desert beige one-pieces worn by airmen. According to Air Force regulations, airmen could wear flight suits in the same places where they could wear utility camouflage uniforms, but maintainers could not wear suits in those same places and should change into camouflage. Maybe the Air Force didn’t want dirty grease monkeys splashing hydraulic fluid all over the place, but for some reason the policy seems to be changing.

Gray or not, MDUs will hopefully offer more options to maintainers who wear them.

“If they’re comfortable enough, clean up to the point where they’re presentable / the command doesn’t yell at you and keep you from messing up your daily uniform, I don’t see a problem,” the F-16 says the maintainer.

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