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Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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Howard Altman: MacDill chosen to sell new Army-like Air Force uniforms

Home to headquarters including U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base is at the forefront of a lot of important military action.

Now it is taking on a new role — as a prime Air Force clothier.

The flying branch has opted to switch its entire force of about 325,000 active duty airmen to a combat uniform with the same camouflage pattern used by the Army and by airmen in combat zones. And MacDill was chosen by the Air Force to be one of four bases in the world to sell its new threads in the initial roll-out.

Starting Oct. 1, airmen can visit the MacDill base exchange to purchase the new uniforms, which have splotches of black and green and tan in what is known as the operational camouflage pattern.

MacDill was chosen along with Aviano Air Base in Italy and Charleston and Shaw Air Force Bases in South Carolina because the bases offer the best combination of features, including major commands and number of personnel, Air Force Maj. Kathleen Atanasoff said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

The Air Force said it made its decision to switch from the current "tiger stripe" camo-patterned uniforms based on feedback from airmen that the new uniforms are "the best, battle-tested utility uniform available," according to the Air Force website.

It also eliminates the need for two uniforms, one for deployment and one for other uses, the website says, "and it is a visible reminder of the service’s identity as a joint warfighting force."

Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein, the flying branch chief of staff, said the new uniforms offer the greatest comfort for a force serving all over the world.

"The uniform works in all climates — from Minot to Manbij — and across the spectrum of missions we perform," Goldfein said. "It’s suitable for our airmen working on a flight line in Northern Tier states and for those conducting patrols in the Middle East."

The new uniforms will come in 20 female sizes and 37 unisex sizes, according to the Air Force. They will cost about $260 a piece, Atanasoff told the Times, or about $20 more than the current airman battle uniform.

More than 100,000 airmen have been issued or are already wearing the new uniform or an equivalent two-piece flight suit, including those in Air Force Central Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Mobility Command and Air Force Global Strike Command.

For those concerned they won’t be able to tell airmen from Army soldiers, the Air Force said the new togs will have "distinctive Air Force features" including name tape and Air Force lettering in a spice-brown color, as well as T-shirts and belts in tan. Most rank insignia also will be in spice-brown thread.

Another feature touted by Goldfein is squadron patches, designating which units an airman belongs to.

"Unit patches express squadron identity and heritage, something our airmen are incredibly proud of and want to celebrate," Goldfein told the Air Force website.

Transition to the new uniforms is scheduled to be completed by April 2021.

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The Pentagon last week announced no new deaths in ongoing operations.

There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 50 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the follow-up, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel; 54 troop deaths and two civilian deaths in support of Operation Inherent Resolve; one troop death in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning, the fight against Islamic State in Libya; one death classified as other contingency operations in the global war on terrorism; and four deaths in ongoing operations in Africa where, if they have a title, officials will not divulge it.

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman

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