The Air Force is “taking a really hard look” at whether the service’s uniforms and gear fit female airmen correctly, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters on Thursday.
“Our uniforms have not traditionally been sized for women — and that’s beyond just the uniform itself; it’s also the gear that we have,” Goldfein said during a Defense Writers Group breakfast. “We have women performing in every combat mission and we owe it to them that have gear that fits, that’s suited for a woman’s frame, that she can be in for hours on end.”
Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, is leading a review into flight and tactical gear for female airmen, Goldfein said. One piece of gear being looked at is flight vests for fighter pilots.
F-15E pilots, for example, can be in the cockpit for up to 10 hours at a time, yet female pilots wear the same combat vests as their male counterparts, Goldfein said. “We can do better than that,” he added.
Pilots have to carefully arrange how they wear their emergency, communications, and other gear on their vests so that they can still move inside the cockpit, said Goldfein, a veteran of many combat missions.
“You’ve got to be able to turn; you’ve got to be able to look around,” he said. “I want to make sure that the weight-bearing side of that vest is suited for both men and women.”
Overall, Goldfein said that he and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright are seeing if it is possible to whittle down all of the different types of uniforms that airmen have by selecting the “best of breed.”
One option being considered is replacing the tiger-striped Airman Battle Uniform with the Army’s camouflage uniform.
In a March 27 Facebook post, Wright wrote the Air Force is “really — like really — close to making a decision” on whether to adopt the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform.
“I will tell you that we have a significant number of airmen, who wear the OCP not only for daily but also downrange when they’re performing duties, especially in Central Command,” Goldfein said Thursday — but he added that there was nothing to announce yet on whether all airmen will wear the Army’s camouflage uniform.
That dovetails with what Wright wrote to airmen yesterday.
“This is one of those large movements that we absolutely can't get ahead of ourselves on,” he wrote. “It’s tough sifting through the rumor mill to make the right decision on your next uniform purchase, and I get it. I work to be as transparent with you as possible. But right now, there is no decision — either way.”