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Airmen mourn fallen uniforms

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Battle dress uniforms, gone. Tan combat boots, gone. These new uniform changes, effective Nov. 1, have received strong responses from Airmen.

The BDUs became the standard uniform of the U.S. Air Force in the late '80s and was the first to utilize a camouflage pattern.

"There is a hole in my heart and when the wind blows, it goes right through that hole and burns, reminding me that they are no more," said Airman 1st Class Joshua Ricker, 23rd Equipment Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion apprentice.

While his reaction seems extreme, there are several practical reasons why this Airman is so upset.

"With the BDUs, I can wear a black shirt and you can hardly tell if I get grease on my uniform," Ricker said. "The ABUs are terrible for guys who work in maintenance. The sand shirts get grease all over them and turn gray. Also, my belt has black finger prints and smudges all over it from aircraft grease."

Another Airman fondly remembers maintaining BDUs while at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

"I remember having to stay up late to iron BDUs and shine boots while at the Academy," said 2nd Lt. Chelsea Hendel, 23rd Mission Support Group executive officer. "There were three people to a room and we would trade items, so one person was ironing and the other two were shining boots. I was usually the one ironing them.

"I will be really sad when they are gone," she added. "It will be a shock, and I think I'm going to be in denial. I plan on saving all my sets of BDUs and maybe putting them in a shadow box."

One NCO got his in Basic Military Training and will continue to wear them up to the very last day.

"I wear my BDUs everyday because they are 100 times more comfortable than the ABUs," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Olmstead, 23rd EMS aerospace maintenance craftsman.

Unlike Olmstead, who was issued his BDUs, Ricker bought his because he wanted to be part of a tradition before it's phased out.

"There is a lot of heritage behind the BDUs," Ricker said. "My parents wore them, and I wanted to be a part of that tradition. When new Airmen get here who have never seen BDUs, I will be able to tell them 'I remember shining my boots and starching my BDUs.'"

While many Airmen are upset about the new changes, others greet them with enthusiasm.

"Personally, I like the ABUs," said Senior Airman Johnny Liu, 23rd Force Support Squadron assistant storeroom manager. "They are way easier to maintain, and are warmer in the winter."

The new changes bring an end to a uniform era with decades of history.

No matter their opinion, all Airmen are expected to follow the new regulations that begin Nov. 1. For more information go to http://www.afpc.af.mil/dress/index.asp.
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