The U.S. Air Force will be getting an update to their physical training (PT) uniforms for the first time in over 16 years, according to a March 2nd news release. The Air Force tested various options and sought the feedback of its service members, wanting to come up with a final product that addressed issues with the old uniform, and make it more functional, comfortable and yes… even more fashionable.
“Our main requirement (from Air Force leaders) was to develop a PT uniform that people really wanted to wear and is as good as, if not better than, commercially available athletic wear,” said Tracy Roan, chief of the Air Force Uniform Office. “The new uniform now includes all of the great performance features that you find in athletic wear today.”
Some of those new features will be soft, quick-drying fabrics with anti-microbial technology that will help control body odor. The update helps bring the Air Force into the 21st century of fitness apparel. Instead of Airmen pining for civilian PT gear like Under Armour and Nike, it appears they will be the envy of the rest of the armed forces by sometime next year, as production is now underway.
The new uniform will offer some versatility, as well. In addition to the new jacket, pants and t-shirt, Airmen will be issued two different types of shorts. One set is a longer, all-purpose type (something any Marine that has ever been forced to wear mid-thigh “silkies” to PT can appreciate), and the other set is geared more towards runners. The all-purpose shorts are unlined, knit with zipper pockets on the hips, and the runners’ shorts are lightweight, stretch-woven fabric with mesh side panels to improve airflow and an improved stretch liner for modesty (again, much appreciated).
The Air Force tested the uniform thoroughly on over 150 Airmen, including Col. Paul Burger, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing Mission Support Group. Burger, as an official of the Air Force Marathon, made for a useful test subject.
“In the past, there was one uniform for all athletic pursuits, whether you were running, playing basketball or lifting weights,” said Col. Burger. “The approach the Air Force has now taken, is to develop a uniform that is earmarked for runners or running and one that is better designed for some of those other athletic activities.”
The jacket will be adapted to be more practical and improve performance as well. The current track jacket is “notorious” for being bulky and distinctively noisy, according to 2nd Lt. Maverick Wilhite, the Unform Office’s Program Manager for PT gear. So the new jacket will have a sleeker, more tailored look, with new, quieter fabric that won’t have you “swish-swishing” around and heard from miles away. It will also include another chest zipper pocket large enough to fit a CAC (Common Access Card) and other small items.
The T-shirt is designed so that it can be worn untucked for PT, but can also be tucked in as directed by individual command. The new uniform will be available in 2022, but will include a four-year phase-in period before mandatory for wear by all Airmen.
Feature photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Varhegyi