The Battle Dress Uniform (BDU), the classic utility uniform for the U.S. Air Force since the early 1980s, is soon to be a thing of the past at the 128th Air Refueling Wing here.
Come November 2011, all wing personnel will be required to wear the Air Force's new uniform, the Airman Battle Uniform or ABU for short.
The ABU, first introduced by the Air Force in 2003, has been slowly changing the look of Milwaukee's Air Guard Wing in the last few years. At first, mainly senior leadership and officers, by virtue of having to purchase their own uniforms, wore the ABU. But a recent infusion of funding from the Guard Bureau will see to it that every one of the 128th's Airmen is outfitted with the ABU.
The crossover from old to new was at first subtle and scattered but is now nearly base-wide and complete. A quick glance at the crowd in the dining facility in Sijan Hall will reveal fewer and fewer Airmen wearing the BDU.
Airmen new to the 128th may have never even worn the BDU. Beginning in late 2007, the ABU was the sole uniform issued to new Airmen at Basic Training.
Getting your Uniform
Outfitting Milwaukee's 900-plus Airmen is no small task either. Starting in the summer of 2009, the Retail Sales counter in the supply warehouse was a hive of activity. From September to December, anyone who went to Retail Sales was met by box upon box of uniforms and long lines of Airmen waiting for the new uniform.
The enormity of uniform switch over was such that it took multiple months to deliver all of the items.
Master Sgt. William 'Buggs' Moran, 128th material management recalled the process of unloading the gear. "Some days it was a whole truck load. Other days it was 10 boxes, 20 boxes," said Moran. Listing all of the individual uniform items, Moran went on, "socks, hats, pants, coats, and then the boots. A lot of boots."
However, despite the challenge of supplying over 900 Airmen with an entire new set of uniform items, Moran considers the 128th's evolution from the BDU to ABU a success.
"We've got an excellent team back there," he said.
Moran credits his team of Airmen for handling such a large task well and without any major problems. Moran made a point to recognize his fellow Airmen for their hard work and professionalism. They include: Master Sgt. Bill Rupp, Master Sgt. Mindy Gibson, Tech. Sgt. Christine Hopkins, Tech. Sgt. Gerri Rogers, Tech. Sgt. James Zaleski, Staff Sgt. Erin Ayotte, Staff Sgt. Andrea Kratofil, SrA Cassondra Kurczek and SrA Justin Preifer.
Nearly every member of the 128th was, or soon will be, issued four complete sets of the ABU. A complete set includes:
- Four pair ABU pants
- Four ABU blouses
- One ABU patrol cap
- Three sand-colored t-shirts
- One sand colored utility belt
- One pair sage green boots
- Three pair sage green socks
"There are only a few people on the base that don't have them yet, and by the next Drill Weekend, they should," Moran said.
About the ABU
The color scheme of the ABU replaces the dark green, black and brown design of the BDU with a lighter, pixilated pattern of grey, green and tan.
The design and cut of the ABU is virtually identical to the BDU; the blouse still has four pockets on the torso and the pants still have the same front, back and side cargo pockets as the earlier uniform did. Minor changes on the ABU however include small pockets on the forearms for pens or pencils, interior map pockets inside the blouse and narrow tool pockets on the lower legs.
Another improvement of the ABU is the distinction between male and female Airmen. While its predecessor only came in the basic, "Large, Medium and Small" sizes for either gender, the ABU was produced specifically for either a male or female wearer. To best fit today's Airmen, the new ABU is available in over 230 different size combinations.