It is your responsibility…

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Griner
  • 71st Medical Group superintendent
In the last month or so I have come across several violations of AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel. These were not just subtle violations, like hands in the pockets during cold weather, that you do without really thinking about.

The violations I am talking about are willful, thought-out violations that members of my Air Force chose to do, either out of ignorance or total disregard for the standards. I realize the AFI has not been updated since 2006. But that is no excuse. It is your responsibility to keep up with changes through your first sergeant and leadership. The Air Force has even dedicated a website to keep you current on uniform changes --

I will not mention any names or specific ranks. Instead I will refer to these members as Airman What Were You Thinking. I use the rank Airman to represent us all.

Case one. It was a Wednesday night and like most Wednesday nights this time of year I was enjoying my evening of bowling on the extramural league. We were well into the second game when I stepped to the rear of the lanes to check out how the other teams were doing.

I noticed Airman WWYT several lanes over from where I was bowling. I kept seeing a glint every time he turned his head. He had something in his ears. My first thought was he couldn't be on active duty. He probably recently separated and was just finishing out the season. I was wrong.

I went up to Airman WWYT and asked him, "Are you on active duty?" "Yes, I am," he replied. I could not believe it. He was here on the installation, a card-carrying active duty member, with "gauges" in his ears.

I was beside myself. You can imagine my response. "Get those things out of your ears right now." Not wanting to make too much of a scene in the bowling alley, we had a short one-sided talk about dress and appearance. Then I got his name and unit so I could turn it over to his first sergeant.

Airman WWYT was accompanied by a couple of Wingmen. What were they thinking? Why did they not address it with him? In the lanes surrounding Airman WWYT were at least a dozen NCOs. What were they thinking? Why didn't they act?

Whose responsibility was it to ensure Airman WWYT maintained Air Force standards? Obviously they all thought it was someone else's responsibility. But the bottom line -- everyone who saw him had the responsibility.

Case two. Airman WWYT was wearing a green fleece jacket under his Airman Battle Uniform shirt. Not under the All Purpose Environmental Clothing system jacket, but actually under the shirt.

The first time it came to my attention, it was in an enlisted meeting at the wing. I thought, "That looks rather odd," my first clue that something was not right. I thought about it and discussed it with the first sergeants, and did some research on my own and came to the conclusion that this was not an authorized wear for the green fleece jacket.

I came across Airman WWYT at another wing event and he was again wearing the fleece under his shirt. How many people had seen him wearing the green fleece jacket in violation of AFI 36-2903, and just let it go. Did they think it was alright?

What you tolerate becomes the standard. I know no one likes having this conversation, because it is unpleasant, but it is a necessary conversation. After the third occurrence, and realizing no one was going to address the situation, I had the conversation with Airman WWYT.

I challenged him that if he had written guidance that wearing the fleece in this manner was authorized, I would surely like to see it. I have received nothing from Airman WWYT and he has discontinued wear of the fleece under his shirt as far as I know.

Once again, where was Airman WWYT's Wingman? Did this not look odd to anyone else? I am sure he came into contact with dozens of individuals each day that said nothing. No one took the responsibility to correct the unauthorized wear.

The last case was in my own unit. I encountered Airman WWYT walking down the hall and noticed he was wearing the green fleece jacket as an outer garment without a name patch or U.S. Air Force patch.

I stopped him, pointed to the Velcro and asked, "Where is your name patch and Air Force patch." He replied, "The patches won't be in for two weeks and I needed a warm jacket because it is cold outside." It is not OK to wear the fleece without the patches. He and his supervisor had a long talk.

I know that I could not have been the only one to notice Airman WWYT did not have the appropriate patches on his fleece jacket. Why was he wearing it like that? Why hadn't someone addressed it?

These three cases are pretty obvious, straight forward violations of AFI 36-2903, either by willful disregard or ignorance. Others may be more subtle, but are violations just the same. If you tolerate the violation because you don't want to have the unpleasant conversation, you have just lowered the standard and condoned the action. It is your responsibility to know and enforce the standards however unpleasant it might be.

Aim High.