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New service coat to better represent Airmen set for testing

Senior Master Sgt. Dana Athnos models the new Air Force service dress Heritage Coat, designed on the uniform worn by Gen. Hap Arnold. The Air Force launches a fit test this fall with an actual 90-day wear test in the spring of 2008. According to Air Force leaders, the Heritage Coat will give the service a more military look that reflects the warrior ethos Airmen have today. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Cohen Young)

Senior Master Sgt. Dana Athnos models the new Air Force service dress Heritage Coat, designed on the uniform worn by Gen. Hap Arnold. The Air Force launches a fit test this fall with an actual 90-day wear test in the spring of 2008. According to Air Force leaders, the Heritage Coat will give the service a more military look that reflects the warrior ethos Airmen have today. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Cohen Young)

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Air Force officials are now set to begin fit and wear tests of the new service coat to better establish a dress uniform that fits the "warrior ethos" Airmen have today.

It's important for the uniform to represent the roles and accomplishments of Airmen, said Brig. Gen. Floyd L. Carpenter, the Airmen Development and Sustainment director.
"We talked extensively to Airmen, both in the field and through the Air Force Uniform Board process, and this is something they've repeatedly asked for," General Carpenter said. "We want a service dress that clearly represents our pride as Airmen and history as a service, and we want to make sure we get it right. That's one of the reasons we're referring to the proposal as the 'Heritage Coat.'"

Air Education and Training Command officials are spearheading the tests, which begin this fall. About 1,000 Airmen will be selected for the initial fit test to find candidates with a variety of body types. Once those Airmen are identified, about 400 of them will actually participate in the 90-day wear test in the spring of 2008.

The test locations are Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and its Gunter Annex; Lackland and Randolph Air Force Bases in Texas, and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. In addition, the Air Force Honor Guard will put the coat through its paces.

The new service coat has gone through several prototypes and Air Force leaders settled on a design similar to the uniform worn by Gen. Hap Arnold.

"We tried several design variations with different lapel styles and sizes, with and without buttons, belted and unbelted, as well as versions with a wide variety of pocket configurations," General Carpenter said. "The prototype coat being tested pulls the strongest mix of detail preferences into one coat and combines them with the latest in textile assembly industry."

Once feedback has been received from the Heritage Coat wear test, the Air Force Uniform Board will make final decisions on the new coat's details and, with approval from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, send it into production.

One of the other proposals for the new coat is to have variations based on how formal an event is. For example, an Airman participating in a ceremony might wear his medals on the coat, while a public affairs Airman taking pictures, or a security forces Airman working the door at the event would wear his ribbons. This would allow Airmen to attend a formal event in different capacities, some participating in ceremony, others because of their job, and still be able to perform their assigned duties while still wearing a dress uniform, General Carpenter said.

Further, another, higher quality fabric Heritage Coat option will be available to Airmen who wish to wear a more professionally tailored uniform. This commercial, custom-tailored coat is being put together through a contract with Brooks Brothers, similar to a contract the Navy has with the company.

The higher quality fabric Heritage Coat will initially be available to general officers, command chiefs and select other individuals. This coat will be available to every Airman a few months after that. The retail price for this coat has yet to be determined.

"Overall we want our Airmen to stand proudly in their dress uniform, and this coat will better represent our contributions today, while evoking the heritage of yesterday," General Carpenter said. "This new coat will help make our Airmen look sharp and it better personifies today's warrior ethos of an Airman engaged in the war on terrorism." 

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