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USAF-style Service Uniforms

USAF-style Service Uniforms

As always CAP Regulation 39-1, The Civil Air Patrol Uniform Regulation is your guide in all things “uniform wear.” (now with new and improved Interim Change Letter goodness!!) The USAF-style Service Uniform (Class B) is covered in Chapter 4, para 4.1.11 for men, and 4.1.12 for women. Those sections cover both the long-sleeve and short-sleeve variants of the Class B uniform.

This uniform, along with the CAP-distinctive Aviator Shirt Uniform, represents the “minimum basic uniform” for CAP members (CAPR 39-1, para 1.2.1). New members are often told "you only need the polo shirt uniform." This isn't entirely correct. The Blue Service Uniform, or the Aviator Shirt Uniform, are the minimum basic uniforms for members.

The USAF-style uniforms come with a whole raft of rules, restrictions, customary wear patterns, and little gotchas that aren’t always apparent from a first glance or for the uninitiated.

Wear of the USAF-style uniform is a privilege granted to CAP by the Air Force. We have a responsibility when wearing the USAF-style uniform to wear it correctly and in the manner prescribed by the regulation. 

This uniform comes with a number of restrictions and requirements, specifically USAF-style grooming standards (CAPR 39-1, Attachment 3) and weight & height standards (CAPR 39-1, Attachment 2). Plus, there is the extra cost of obtaining USAF-specific items versus their civilian counterparts. And, as wearers of the USAF-style will agree with me, the USAF-style uniform can take a little bit to “get right.” There are any number of non-obvious idiosyncrasies if you’re not accustomed to wearing military uniforms. (all the cadets out there are nodding and checking their giglines and military tucks..)


And of course, cadets are required to wear the USAF-style uniform in almost every circumstance (CAPR 39-1, para 1.2.2)

With that out of the way, I won’t parrot the regulation too much here, you can read it for yourself, but below are some common issues we see:

  • Grooming standards. CAP members wearing this USAF-style uniform must comply with the grooming standards found in CAPR 39-1, Attachment 3. If you prefer your hair longer or have some superb facial hair, the CAP-distinctive Aviator Shirt Uniform is your only option.

  • Flight cap. Worn square on the head, fore & aft, with the cap tilted slightly to the right. I’ve seen these worn like a Tommy in WWII almost all the way to the right ear. That's not right.  Also, para tells you the front of the cap is worn “approximately one inch” from the eyebrows.
    You can find an AFJROTC video on YouTube that, apart from the simulated cadet abuse, shows you how to do it. 

  • Wash your shirt. A lot. Launder the living daylights out of it (well, OK, maybe not that much). Give particular emphasis to the collar.  You also don’t need to starch your shirt until it stands up and marches. Just enough starch to hold your creases is usually fine.

  • Wash your hands, too! When putting your uniform together, both this uniform and the white aviator shirt, make sure your hands are clean. Grubby collars points and button plackets look awful, and its because your hands are dirty when you put your insignia on!! (also: your ribbons will get dirty quickly)

  • T-shirt. The correct t-shirt worn under the Air Force and CAP service uniforms with an open collar is a plain white v-neck so that no t-shirt is showing at the neck. If you are a veteran of another service, this is a super gotcha. Also: You can see anything printed on a t-shirt through the blues shirt.

  • Ties. Ties are NOT required with the short-sleeve Class B uniform. I see a lot of cadets, especially cadet officers, wearing them for “formality,” but honestly its not needed, especially in the summer. Wear the same configuration as your cadets are wearing and it will go a lot further. A ties is required with the long-sleeve shirt.

  • Insignia & Badges. Make sure badges & decorations are centered over the pockets and either resting on the pocket (ribbons, nametag) or ½” above (badges). Remember, the total number of badges allowed, apart from the commander’s badge, is four.
    Cadet collar insignia often runs afoul of that plastic stiffener in the collar. Not much we can do about that. Do your best to get your insignia on the collar in the right place.

Caution, controversial topic ahead:  Customarily in the USAF, officers do not wear ribbons on the Class B uniform. Yes, ribbons are listed as “optional” on the Class B and can be worn. But as a custom, officers only wear badges on this uniform. There are strong opinions on either side of this, but I lean toward the customary wear pattern.

  • Belt and gigline. The “gigline” is where the placket of your shirt, the vertical line on the edge of your belt buckle, and the zipper placket on your trousers line up. Seniors if you’ve never worn a military uniform before, seek out a cadet to show you what a gigline and “brass on brass” look like. They’ll be tickled pink that you asked, and you’ll be well informed!

  • Shirt Garters. Shirt garters are not required, obviously, but they sure do help keep your uniform shirt looking tucked and sharp. Cadets, you can truly get away with just one pair of shirt garters. Honest! (Don’t laugh, I’ve seen cadets with 10 per side!)

  • Trouser hems. Oh, boy. This is a hot button. Please take your trousers to a tailor and have them hemmed. Trousers from Vanguard come unhemmed, resulting in cadets with trousers bunched up around their shoes. A correct hem is a so-called “West Point hem” (or tapered hem) versus a more traditional “straight hem.” With the trousers pulled up appropriately (over your hips), the front of the trousers should just touch the top of your shoes and cause a slight “break” in the crease. The back of the trousers should then fall between ⅝” and ⅞” inch longer than the front. Cadets, when you get your trousers hemmed, have the tailor leave a little extra fabric for eventual re-hemming due to growth.


  • Socks. For some odd reason, I see a lot of white socks. Socks are to be black, without pattern or design. Can be held up by the aforementioned shirt garters.

  • Shoes. Can be low-quarters, dress boots or chukkas, or combat boots for men, or low-quarters, dress boots, pumps, or slip-on shoes for women (note: I am not sure why combat boots aren't listed for women. As I may have mentioned previously, combat boots and the skirt is definitely a no-go. Black leather. Please shine them. Customary habit is for them to be highly buffed and shined as a point of pride, but that's so easy to overemphasize. You want to go the extra mile with a high-speed spit-shine, that's fine. But far too many shoes I see aren’t even shined. Let's crawl before we run, OK?

  • Outerwear. There is a lot of discussion of what can and cannot be worn with the USAF-style uniform as far as outerwear is concerned. While the Cadet Program regulation says that "[...] commanders and activity directors will prioritize protection from the elements over adherence to CAP uniform standards," members should try to limit wear of non-uniform outergarments with any of the USAF-style uniforms. The lightweight jacket (which can be worn with a liner) and the overcoat can be obtained online for relatively little expense.

That's about it for the USAF-style Service Uniform.

Attached is the latest update to the CAP Uniform Equivalents poster that many units have hanging up in their squadrons. It incorporates some changes to the regulation and also updates some paragraph numbers.

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