Much like Army soldiers’ experiences over the last few years, the Air Force is about to go through the disorganization that comes with having multiple uniforms in service at the same time. While a few Senior and Chief Master Sergeants might cringe at the sight of mixed uniforms, it’s a necessary evil that keeps uniform prices affordable and spreads the cost more broadly across multiple allowances and paychecks. Still, there will no doubt be some confusion, especially for younger Airmen, and it’s going to take some adjustments to get keep within standards.
Before you dive in, keep in mind that this advice is from a soldier who lived through the Army’s uniform (and therefore boot) transition. While I’ve been keeping a close eye on this subject for US Patriot Tactical, don’t take anything in this article as gospel if it contradicts with your leadership’s guidance. Follow the guidelines of your first-line supervisors and, when in doubt, always head straight to the source at Headquarters Air Force Personnel Center (http://www.afpc.af.mil).
Airman Battle Uniform – Sage Green Boots
Based on the Vietnam-era uniform of the same style, the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) will be on its way out starting in October. That said, it might make more financial sense to wear the uniform for as many as a few more years – the mandatory wear date for OCP isn’t until April 1st, 2021. The boots for this uniform are and will remain the sage green variant that’s been in service since 2003 unless you’re deployed and your commander has authorized something different.
The benefit of the sage green boots is that boot designers have been catering to the Air Force community for 15 years. Just like the Army’s and Navy’s different requirements, the Air Force often works in their unique environments, favoring offices, flight lines, and workshops over being in the field. This makes it easier for an Airman to find a boot that matches the needs of their job. Steel-toe variants, oil and slip resistant soles, and waterproof options all factor into the decision to buy the right service boots and Sage Green made it easier for a more concentrated force to get what they need.
The safest advice for those choosing to continue with the ABU is this: keep doing what you’ve always been doing.
Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) – Coyote Brown Boots (Mostly)
Starting in October, many Airmen will start having the option to wear the OCP. I’ve said it before and will say it again now – don’t panic trying to get the new uniform. You have two and a half years to switch over completely, so take your time and budget your spending according.ly.
Unlike with sage green, the answer to what boots are authorized is a little more complicated. First off, both tan and brown boots are authorized for wear during the transition period. If you were issued or bought a pair of tan boots in serviceable condition, they are authorized during the initial wear, and I’d encourage you to get the use out of the boots until they need to be replaced. However, be sure to get a chance to replace them before the mandatory wear date in 2021. Tan boots will no longer be authorized for wear after this period, and all Airmen will be back to wearing the same boot color by then.
Buying coyote brown boots will be a lot more complicated at the start than with the sage green variants, simply because many of the specialized boots you can easily find in sage don’t exist yet in coyote versions. Since the announcement, boot manufacturers have been working on releasing brown versions of the boots Airmen have come to know and love. However, many of the boots already on the market have been designed with ruck marches, patrols, and difficult terrain in mind – and largely without the options that made their way into boots marketed towards Airmen.
Take the extra time to research boots and try them on before upgrading to coyote brown and you might just find a new favorite pair. If not, don’t worry: your favorite boots will likely make their way onto shelves in OCP versions very soon.
The answer is fairly simple for what boots to wear for what uniform. Keep wearing your sage green boots with the ABU, and swap over to coyote brown for OCP. Remember than tan boots are temporarily available with OCP but will have to be replaced before the OCP mandatory wear date on 1 April 2021.
Take this opportunity to look at what new boot options open up and if there are any Army boots that might better fit your daily schedule. US Patriot keeps a running list of the coyote boots available for USAF OCP wear here.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.