Righting the wrong: Getting the courage to correct uniform violations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brigitte N. Brantley-Sisk
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
We are taught to wear our uniforms a certain way throughout basic military training and our initial technical training. But for some people, that knowledge seems to disappear when they become a part of the operational Air Force.

Every day, I see people who are clearly not following the regulations set forth in Air Force Instruction 36-2903, "Dress and Appearance of Air Force Personnel."

It's possible they just aren't aware of the AFI and what is expected of them, but I'm just as inclined to think they just don't pay any attention to it. Since when have sloppy hairdos and bright pink gym bags been acceptable?

Earlier this week, I did something for only the second time: corrected a fellow Airman on dress and appearance expectations. I tapped her on the shoulder and let her know that we aren't supposed to have loose ends in our hair. She immediately reached around and began fixing it.

However, not all corrections are this easy. The first time I corrected someone was about three months ago. An Airman was coming out of her dormitory room with the t-shirt of her physical training uniform untucked. I stopped her and said, "Hey, I don't know if you're new to this base, but we have to have our PT shirts tucked in."

Her reply was, "I don't have to tuck it in until I actually get to PT."

She was wrong. That is just like saying I don't have to blouse my pants until I get to work or telling a male Airmen that he doesn't have to shave until he gets to his duty station.

Seeing these daily infractions is a frustrating occurrence and I am working on the courage to call more people out on them. As an airman 1st class, it can be intimidating to do, even to coworkers or others of the same rank.

Something that stops many individuals, including me, from making these corrections is rank. To figure out how to best approach this issue, I got the opinion of a senior NCO-- Senior Master Sgt. James Roberts, 23rd Comptroller Squadron and 23rd Wing staff superintendent.

"Some people know the regulations and decide to go against them, but others just aren't educated on them," he said. "A good approach is to always be polite and remain professional, even if the other person isn't accepting what you're saying."

Sergeant Roberts stated that he usually begins his on-the-spot correction by asking the individual if they are even aware of the regulation regarding their violation. He also added that if he was not within regulations for some reason, he would rather have someone correct him before higher leadership steps in to correct the infraction.

The accompanying illustrations bring to light the violations that I witness most often.

Three additional things to consider that the illustrationsdon't cover:
- We should NOT wear uniform items that do not meet Air Force specifications. Among many things, this means that if you are getting dressed after PT and realize you have forgotten your tan Airman Battle Uniform shirt, you cannot wear your PT shirt instead. For more information, reference AFI 36-2903 Paragraph 1.3
- Cell phones must be solid or covered in black, silver, dark blue or gray, and must be conservative. The 98th Air Force Virtual Uniform Board decided the cell phone could be worn on either the left or right side. For more information, reference AFI 36-2903 Table 2.6.
- Do not stand or walk with your hands in your pockets, except to get something out or put it in. Do not eat or drink while walking in uniform. For more information, reference AFI 36-2903 Paragraph 1.3.

My plan of action is to start making more corrections. I know I may falter from time to time and that by making these statements, I open myself to critique. But I agree with Sergeant Roberts on this- if I'm not within the regulations, I hope someone corrects me, even if they are junior in rank, before it comes to the attention of a person much more senior in rank.