No gray area for blue backpacks

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Nikita Martin
  • JSUPT Class 10-10
As 221 newly-commissioned second lieutenants become part of Team Vance, there is an important message to be relayed concerning the appropriate wear of backpacks while in uniform. 

This article is about my own recent noncompliance with regulations. I have worn my standard issue U.S. Air Force Academy blue backpack for many years. Out of habit, I continued to wear my backpack here at Vance AFB -- a prevalent trend among many of my peers. 

A few days ago, as I walked out of the simulator building, I encountered a senior ranking officer who nicely suggested it may be a good idea to correct myself back to the standard. Overwhelmed with pilot training, I resolved to replace the backpack at my own earliest convenience. 

Two days later, still wearing the same backpack, the senior officer and I crossed paths again. As you might imagine, the second encounter was not as pleasant. Although I have the utmost respect for my superiors, my lack of action said something very different. 

My first mistake was being out of uniform. The second was not assuming ownership and taking immediate corrective action for my first mistake. 

Per Air Force Instruction 36-2903, only solid-color black backpacks may be worn with blue uniform combinations. Solid-color black, olive drab, or woodland camouflage are the only colors authorized with the battle dress uniform, airman battle uniform and flight suit. 

Conservative manufacture's logo is allowed on the backpack. Members may wear backpacks using one or both shoulder straps, but wear should not interfere with rendering the appropriate salute. 

This message is of particular importance to all the new academy graduates who may still be wearing their now unauthorized blue backpacks. As an officer in the U.S. Air Force, appearance, adherence to regulations and personal accountability are essential to fostering a positive and professional work environment. 

When a superior officer highlights a discrepancy, don't consider it a suggestion. Show respect by acting immediately. Initial impressions in conjunction with professional image are long lasting. You can avoid unnecessary encounters by policing yourself and your buddy. 

To all of the new lieutenants, or older lieutenants, still relentlessly clinging to past memorabilia, realize that when you took the oath of office, you vowed to hold yourself to a higher standard than your civilian counterparts. 

Something as seemingly insignificant as a blue backpack versus a black backpack may appear minute at the time. But it is our commitment to serve and uphold even the smallest of directives that is the foundation of our team as men and women of character and allows for safe and professional execution of the mission. 

We all wear a uniform that represents our nation's call to arms. Be sharp. Set the example and respect the rules. Don't wait until the weekend to purchase a new Air Force approved nondescript black or olive drab backpack. There's no substitute for prompt action or a black bag.