Look sharp, honor proud traditions

  • Published
  • By Col. Troy Vonada
  • 94th Airlift Wing Inspector General

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. – How long has it been since you attended basic training, officer training school or the Air Force Academy? If it’s been more than a few years (I won’t even say how long it’s been for me…), then you may have forgotten many of the customs and courtesies that make us who we are.   


For those of us who have been in a while, we remember AFR 35-10 was the precursor to AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel. Reverberations of “Airman, that’s a 35-10 Violation!” echo in our ears.

Customs and courtesies have a long tradition in the military. Some historians believe saluting began in late Roman times when assassinations were common. A citizen who wanted to see a public official had to approach with his right hand raised to show that he did not hold a weapon. Knights in armor raised visors with the right hand when meeting a comrade.

This practice gradually became a way of showing respect and in early American history sometimes involved removing the hat. By 1820, the motion was modified to touching the hat, and since then it has become the Hand Salute used today.

By now, you may be asking, “Why did I bring this up?”


November 15-19, we’ll be having our Unit Effectiveness Inspection (UEI) Capstone Event. Typically, IG teams are notorious for checking out how well units follow the traditions of customs and courtesies. It’s been said that they start out with a white board, or flip chart, and list all the AFI36-2903 violations.


If the whiteboard/flip chart is loaded with violations, it’s a failure!


We don’t want to be that wing. In my more than 30 years of serving, I’ve only seen this happen once, and the failing unit was a RegAF AETC unit (surprise!).


To help prepare us for this impending visit, and at the same time improve visible pride in the wing, here are some things we can do to shore up our customs and courtesies:


1. Uniforms:  Check your uniform. Make sure it’s clean, serviceable and free of stains. If not, get some new uniforms. Remember not to starch them as this decreases service life (ironing is okay).


2. ABU wear:  ABUs may be worn off base for short convenience stops and restaurants where people wear compatible attire.


3. T-Shirts:  T-Shirts with ABUs are to be Desert Sand colored (Tan). Commanders may authorize wear of unit standardized color undershirts on Friday, Saturday or Sunday of UTA weekends.


4. Earpieces:  Wear/use of an earpiece, any blue tooth technology or headphones while in uniform indoors or outdoors is prohibited, unless specifically authorized for execution of official duties.


5. Headphones/earphones:  Headphones/earphones are authorized while wearing PT gear during individual or personal PT in the fitness center or on designated running areas, unless prohibited by the installation commander.


6. Gym bags:  Gym bags will be solid dark-blue, black, olive drab, Air Force sage green or ABU pattern with matching stitching (small logos are okay) and carried in the left hand. Use of shoulder straps are authorized on the left shoulder as long as it doesn’t interfere with rendering the proper salute.


7. Back Packs:  Back packs will be solid black, olive drab, Air Force sage green or ABU pattern in color (small logos are okay), and may be worn with any uniform combination. They may be worn on the left shoulder or both shoulders (not to interfere with rendering the proper salute).


8. PT Gear:  PT gear is mandatory during physical fitness assessments and while participating in organized PT events designated by the commander. Proper military customs and courtesies honoring the flag during reveille/retreat will apply (this means coming to full attention and rendering a proper salute when outdoors). Saluting due to rank recognition is not required when wearing the PT gear.


9. Hair standards:  Males – tapered appearance on both sides and back of the head, not to exceed 1¼  inch in bulk with ¼ inch at termination point; hair not to touch ears or protrude under front band of headgear. Cleanly shaven heads, military high-and-tight or flat-top cuts are authorized (Mohawk, mullet, cornrows, dreadlocks or etched design aren’t).  Females – minimum hair length is ¼ inch, to a maximum bulk of 3 inches (hair will end above the bottom edge of collar and bangs, or side-swept hair, not to touch eyebrows). Hair color, highlights, lowlights, and frosting will not be faddish or extreme and will be natural looking hair color, similar to the individual’s.


10. Tattoos/Brands/Body Markings:  Tattoos/brands/body markings will not be on the hands (except one ring tattoo on one finger on one hand), head, neck (anything visible above the open collar uniform), face, tongue, lips, and scalp. Tattoos/brands/body markings anywhere on the body that are obscene, commonly associated with gangs, extremists, and supremacist organizations, or that advocate sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination are prohibited in and out of uniform.


11. Salutes:  Junior members initiate the salute accompanied with an appropriate verbal greeting (e.g. “Good Morning, Sir/Ma’am”). The salute should be offered early enough to allow the senior time to return it and extend a verbal greeting before passing. When the salute is rendered to a senior office in a vehicle (Wing/Group CC or Flag Officer), hold the salute until returned by the officer or after the vehicle has passed.


Some other thoughts to ponder as outlined in AFI 34-1201, Protocol:


Juniors shall show deference to seniors at all times by recognizing their presence and by employing a courteous and respectful bearing and mode of speech toward them.


Juniors shall stand at attention (unless seated at mess or circumstances making such action impracticable or inappropriate) as follows:  when addressed by a senior officer, or, when an officer of flag or general and the commanding officer, an officer senior to the commanding officer or an officer making an official inspection enters the room or space.


Juniors shall walk or ride to the left of seniors whom they are accompanying.


Wow! That’s a lot to pack in and remember to follow.


By now, you may be asking, “Why do we follow Customs and Courtesies and Dress and Appearance guidelines?” My answer to you is to instill pride in who we are, what we are and whom we serve.


Who we are – we are the 94th Airlift Wing, the finest tactical airlift wing in the world! What we are – simply the best fighting force the world has ever known! Whom we serve – the Almighty, a grateful nation, the Air Force and each other.


Never doubt – when we deploy in support of the warfighters or combatant commanders, there’s no one that matches us in mission accomplishment! We’re the Apex Predator! Or, in other words: simply the best!