Are You In Compliance With AFI 36-2903?

  • Published
  • By Mrs.Pamela D. Cooper
  • 4th Force Support Squadron
In 1981, an Air Force recruiter came to my high school class and talked us about joining the Air Force. One of the first things I noticed was his personal appearance. He wore his service dress uniform, which was well-groomed and presented a professional image. The lasting impression I got from the recruiter that day influenced my views on how Airmen in the U.S. military should present themselves.

Throughout my military career, I've witnessed many "sharp" Airmen who represent our Air Force well. However, there are some that didn't adhere to the standards we took an oath to uphold. It is our duty as Airmen to continue to stand ready to strengthen the force and encourage our fellow wingmen to do so as well. This is done, not by walking past violations and accepting lower standards, but by making the appropriate corrections to those who need them.

As Airmen, we need to be more conscious of all aspects as it pertains to our military dress and appearance. It is our responsibility not to detract from our image or stand by and allow others to do so.

While every aspect of dress and appearance is important, in my observation there are two areas that Airmen need clarification on. The first is the Air Force Instruction's rules on hairstyles.

Every Airman's hair should be clean, well-groomed and present a professional appearance. It should also allow for proper wear of headgear, helmet or chemical mask and conform to safety requirements.

Female's hair should meet the minimum length requirements of one inch unless otherwise approved. Their hair may begin to gradually taper from one inch in length to ¼ inch in length approximately three inches from the hairline. Females may style their hair in braids, micro-braids and cornrows. However, they must be a natural-looking color and similar to the individual's hair color; conservative and not present a faddish appearance. Hair color, highlights, and frosting must also be natural-looking and compliment the wearer's skin tone and complexion.

Male's hair must have a tapered appearance on both sides and the back of the head, both with and without headgear. A block-cut is permitted with tapered appearance. Their hair may not exceed 1¼ inch in bulk, regardless of length and ¼ inch at natural termination point; allowing only closely cut or shaved hair on the back of the neck to touch the collar. Males may have cleanly shaven heads, military high-and-tight or flat-top haircuts.

The other area of emphasis is accessories. I've noticed many Airmen do not know the rules about governing bags that can be worn in while in uniform.

According to the AFI, while in the Air Force dress uniform, gym bags can only be solid black or dark-blue in color with matching stitching. It also can only be carried in the left hand. When wearing ABUs, Airmen can also use olive drab, Air Force sage green or Airman Battle Uniform-patterned gym bags. The bag may also contain a logo, but it can't be excessive in correlation to the bag.

Handbags are also governed by the AFI. Traditional ones will be solid black leather or vinyl with black stitching and no ornamentation. However, the bags may include a plain fold-over flap, a single-placed silver or gold-colored clasp and have up to two adjustable shoulder straps with or without buckles on the straps.

Please remember first impressions are lasting impressions. We don't want to detract from our representation of the Air Force by giving the public the wrong impression and not adhering to military dress and appearance. I challenge each and every one of you to review your dress in accordance with AFI 36-2903. Don't be afraid to correct someone that is in violation just because they out rank you or are of a different gender; just be professional. Remember, a good first impression is a lasting impression. One slip and the entire Air Force could be judged.