The line began forming well over an hour before the military clothing store opened Monday.
By the time the first customer entered, more than 100 people were behind him, eager to purchase the Air Force’s new utility uniform.
The Air Force adopted the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP, on Monday, taking another step toward retiring the much-maligned Airman Battle Uniform, or ABU, by April 2021.
Airmen at Aviano were the first overseas to purchase the uniform through an exchange store. Airmen at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., along with Shaw Air Force Base and Joint Base Charleston, both in South Carolina, were the first stateside to get a crack at buying the new uniform.
The airmen in line had various reasons for being there, but the most common was that they simply never liked the tiger-striped, grayish-green ABUs.
“This uniform is actually camouflaged,” said Senior Airman Jeffrey Langford, a security forces airman assigned to the 31st Security Forces Squadron, 31st Fighter Wing.
The Air Force decided on the uniform change earlier this year after airmen said the OCP was more comfortable. The change also means that airmen deployed to combat zones, many of whom had to wear the OCP anyway, won’t have to pack two different utility uniforms.
“Airmen have been asking for this change for a long time,” said Maj. Blake E. Johnson, operations officer for Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Europe & Africa. “Additionally, (the Air Force) wanted to align with the Army, as it makes it easier to blend in and of course, it’s easier to maintain one uniform,” he said.
Airmen who have already worn the OCP gave the change their support Monday.
“I was deployed before and since then, I was able to keep this uniform and wear it,” said Staff Sgt. Margaret Kroening of the 31st Fighter Wing’s contracting office. “It’s very comfortable, it feels like I’m wearing pajamas.”
Airmen were allowed to purchase only two sets of uniforms Monday because of limited supplies.
The current stock should outfit about a third of the base’s assigned airmen, said Claudia Bortolotto, a retail supervisor with Army and Air Force Exchange Service.
“This morning went well,” Bortolotto said. “We had a system in place to deal with the influx of customers looking to buy the new uniform. We had nine workers today when we typically will only have three on any given morning shift.”
More AAFES stores will receive the new uniform next spring, DLA said in a statement. The Air National Guard will issue the OCP as early as fall 2019, according to DLA.
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