Uniform officials warn Airmen about knockoff ABUs

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Monique Randolph
  • Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs
Commercial manufacturers have begun to advertise sale of the new Airman Battle Uniform at various online Web sites. Air Force officials warn Airmen these uniforms are not the authorized items provided by the Air Force's official source, Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, and may not meet the service's stringent specifications.

Many Airmen who want to get the uniform immediately may be tempted to purchase these uniforms, potentially sacrificing the safety and quality of the DSCP-procured uniforms scheduled to be available for purchase at Army and Air Force Exchanges Service locations in October, said Maj. Randall Smith of the Air Force Uniform and Recognition Branch.

"Many of these Web sites are advertising their uniforms as 'official' and 'fully certified,' however, no commercial vendors currently have Air Force certification," he said. "All uniforms must be purchased through DSCP or AAFES when they become available."

When the Army introduced its Army Combat Uniform, it faced similar issues, said Maj. Brian Schooley, the program manager for Air Force Military Clothing at AAFES. Many soldiers purchased uniforms from uncertified commercial vendors, and the uniforms did not meet Army specifications.

In many cases, the pockets were improperly sewn or sized, the stitching was incorrect, and the weight, quality and feel of the garments were inferior, he said. There were also safety issues.

"The (certified) ACU (and ABU) have an inherent non-infrared quality that makes them undetectable by night-vision equipment," Major Schooley said. "The knockoffs may not have that same quality."

Additionally, when soldiers purchased knockoff uniforms that did not meet military specifications, they were not able to return them for refunds, and military clothing sales cannot exchange them because they are not certified, he said. DSCP uniforms have a replacement warranty and may be exchanged at AAFES locations.

"DSCP provides high-level quality with all our products," said Al Esposito, a supervisory product service specialist with DSCP. "We only award (contracts) to the best vendors to give (members) the best quality."

While the military can not legally stop vendors from advertising and selling knockoff uniforms, it can educate military members on the importance of buying their uniforms from certified vendors.

"Our folks deserve to know what they are, or are not, buying," Major Smith said. "Airmen, especially those who are deploying, don't need hassles, and when you buy something uncertain, you run the risk of having your uniform fall apart at a very inconvenient time."

The ABU is being issued to Airmen scheduled to deploy and those already in deployed locations. It will be issued to Airmen in basic training and available in select AAFES locations in October. The mandatory wear date is in 2011.

"We're getting great reviews about the uniform, and we're thrilled that folks want to get it now," Major Smith said. "We are working as hard as possible with DSCP and AAFES to get it out while meeting the AEF and AOR requirements. We ask Airmen to hold on. It's coming, and it's worth the wait." 

Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)

Click here to view the comments/letters page