Air Force phases out Battle Dress Uniforms

Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs Report

11/2/2011 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Effective Nov. 1, 2011, approximately 19,500 active-duty personnel in Air Force Materiel Command will have two uniform options to wear at work: the Airman Battle Uniform or blues.

The Air Force has officially phased out the woodland camouflage-patterned Battle Dress Uniforms. Other items phased out with BDUs effective Nov. 1 include the Desert Camouflage Uniform, black T-shirt, black combat boots and tan boots with the ABU outside of theater operations. Tan boots remain authorized in theater operations.

The Air Force originally announced the phase-out to occur Oct. 1, but Air Force Instruction 36-2903, "Dress and Appearance of Air Force Personnel," moved the date to Nov. 1.

Aside from their appearances, one of the major differences between the ABU and BDU is the upkeep of the uniform. The ABU requires less care, with many Airmen saying they like the "grab and go" capability of the ABU once they have washed the uniform and hung it up to dry.

"There was a significant difference in uniform care," said Senior Master Sgt. William Dean, Headquarters AFMC first sergeant. "You had to iron the BDU and many Airmen applied starch to create crisp creases to enhance their professional appearance."

Another difference is that ABU boots -- now a sage green, full-grain leather boot with rubber heel and toe reinforcements -- do not require polishing.

"Many of us 'older' Airmen remember allocating time to polish our black boots and striving for a good shine on them," Dean said. "But ironing BDUs and polishing boots did take time and effort. The ABU is a more practical uniform in a deployed environment."

The almost 30 year-old BDU, originally designed for wear throughout Europe and the Cold War, was worn by all branches of the service until 2005. Starting Nov. 1 only Navy personnel will be authorized to wear the BDU until its set phase-out date.

Airmen desiring more uniform information can go to