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Which Uniform Do I Get First?

Which Uniform Do I Get First?

One of the first questions we often get from new CAP members and cadet parents is “Which uniform do I get first?”  Unfortunately, the answer is a qualified “That depends.”

For cadets, most of the time the first uniform you get is the ABU uniform. It is fairly simple and you’ll need a uniform to pin that first stripe onto when you complete your first achievement. Once you have your first achievement, you'll get the Curry Blues Voucher from Vanguard to get your cadet blues. (cadets: you can read on, but most of the rest of this message pertains to senior members!)

For seniors, things are a little bit different because senior members have two different styles of uniforms to choose from: Corporate-style or USAF-style. The selection of which style depends on your program interests, ability to meet the wear standards of the USAF uniform, including the grooming & weight standards shown in CAP Regulation 39-1, Attachments 2 & 3, and other factors. (This will be the subject of a future installment, trust me.)

All that said, let's be clear about what the regulations say about our “minimum basic uniform.”

CAP Regulation 39-1, the Civil Air Patrol Uniform Regulation, in para 1.2.2 and 1.2.3 outlines the “minimum” USAF-style and Corporate-style uniforms for our members. These are the Blue Service Uniform (USAF-style) or the Aviator Shirt Uniform (Corporate-style)

Either of these uniforms is appropriate for most CAP settings, even flying in CAP aircraft.

“But sir! My squadron told me that the polo shirt is the only uniform I ever need!”

Well, not exactly.

The CAP Corporate Working Unifrom (AKA “The polo shirt”) probably the most frequently worn CAP uniform by senior members. Especially our pilot corps. And you can certainly get that uniform first, much like cadets often get their ABU uniform first.

But that is by no means the ONLY uniform you should possess. Mostly because, as I mentioned in my previous Squared Away message, the CAP Corporate Working Uniform is in a uniform category that will not serve you for all of the circumstances and activities you will likely attend as a senior member.

Several years ago in the CAP photo gallery online, there were photos of members receiving awards at the National Conference. The National Commander is in Service Dress (an equivalent to a civilian suit). In nearly every photo the recipients are in USAF-style Service Dress or the corporate blazer uniforms. A few were even in the Aviator Shirt uniform. However, there was one very memorable photo of a gentleman receiving a National-level award in the polo shirt uniform. Complete mismatch in the formality of the situation. You’d no more want that than someone showing up to your wedding in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

So when picking up your first uniform, know that it very well may not be your ONLY uniform. You may be an Aerospace Education Officer and won’t find yourself in a circumstance to wear utilities, so you may never own a uniform from the Utility & Working Uniform category.  Or you may be a pilot, and you will occasionally attend meetings of higher level of formality than that provided by the CAP Corporate Working Uniform or a Flight Duty Uniform. 

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