Gen Welsh Authorizes Morale Patches, Confirms Rock Star Status

General Mark Welsh just cemented his “rock star” status as Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. Though it took nearly 18 months, General Welsh has finally sent the ban on morale uniform items the way of Blues Monday [emphasis added]:

Morale T-shirts/patches representing individual squadrons that were worn in the past to increase unit pride are now authorized to wear on Fridays. Squadron color T-shirts may be worn with the ABU or flight suit when in-garrison or on-station during unit temporary duty assignments and contingency deployments…

The nuance to the victory here is that in years past, most morale uniform items (colored unit shirts, morale patches, etc.) were unofficial — ie, the regulation didn’t say you couldn’t, so people did — and stretched the limits of the rules as a result. This was then “fixed” by new regulations specifically banning “morale” items. Now, General Welsh has explicitly authorized those same items.

The new AFI even specifically authorizes “tab” patches, which can be placed on the exposed velcro when a pencil flap cover is cut off, a tradition almost exclusive to the fighter pilot community.

Granted, these authorizations require unit commander approval and even an approved “list” of patches:

Wing Commanders may authorize the wear of morale patches on the shoulders of the FDU on Fridays, or during special events. Small morale tabs may be worn on the exposed Velcro of the left sleeve when the pen pocket cover is removed; wear is not restricted. Squadron Commanders will approve and maintain a list of acceptable morale patches and tabs for wear by assigned Airmen.

The regulation also removes the requirement for wearing a reflective belt with the PT uniform — universally panned as redundant, since the PT uniform is reflective, but a frequent target of zealous uniform enforces in the AOR.

The AFI changes have resulted in much rejoicing — and hope that “common sense” will prevail in other areas, as well.

For the record, though, the AFI retains a few quality “really?” statements:

Appropriate undergarments are required to be worn with all uniform combinations. Wear undershirt and underpants with all uniforms.

In case you were wondering.

The new AFI 36-2903 can be read here (ePubs).  Also at the Air Force Times and Stars and Stripes,