When the U.S. military wanted to define the look of a its newest branch, it turned to Tracy Roan and her team of designers in the Air Force Uniform Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
U.S. Space Force recently unveiled prototypes of its new “service dress” uniforms, with a distinctive, “deep midnight” blue tunic set off with buttons descending diagonally on one side — creating what’s called a “delta” shape.
The uniforms are the result of more than a year of work by a small crew of 21 people based on Wright-Patterson, the Air Force base with the largest working population responsible for cradle-to-grave management of a huge array of weapons and materials.
“The whole office recognized how historic this is,” said Roan, chief of the Air Force uniform office. “Because uniforms truly become an identity of a service.”
While the office is always busy adapting and revising existing uniforms, this was a new task, Roan said in a recent interview.
“We’ve never developed a brand new uniform such that it becomes the true identity of that force,” she said.
The work is not done. The prototype will get further tweaks, and the team is also near completion of Space Force physical training outfits.
President Trump and Congress created Space Force in late 2019, with passage of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The force is part of the Department of the Air Force, a relationship analogous to the U.S. Marine Corps’ relationship to the Navy.
The nascent service has been slowly taking shape since then, with regular announcements trickling in about members of the Air Force and other branches joining the new branch, becoming Space Force “Guardians.”
In September, the Department of Defense said 15 global units with 319 military and 259 civilian billets (job positions) from the Army and Navy will transfer to Space Force.
Existing regular “duty of the day” OCP (Operational Camouflage Pattern) combat Space Force uniforms are very similar to Air Force and even Army OCP uniforms, but with distinctive name tags and insignia.
The new uniforms are turning heads, with recent features in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. Some of the stories have made comparisons to fictional uniforms in Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica.
Said Roan, “We got a lot of feedback, mostly positive.”
Barely mentioned or perhaps lost in the coverage, however, is the fact that workers and designers at Wright-Patterson created the prototypes.
These blue-and-grey, six-button-front service dress uniforms took more than a year of work, involving feedback sessions and focus groups, and of course, reviews by leadership.
In all, what Roan called “a broad array of Guardians” had their say on the new design.
The office went through more than 150 design iterations, Roan said.
“It’s been a very long process, and there’s still development work to be done,” she said. “It’s attention to detail. You want to make sure that it’s right.”
Beyond becoming part of the new service branch’s history and heritage, Roan said it’s gratifying for her team to get this suddenly widespread attention.
“It’s kind of exhilarating for my team. This is what we love to do,” she said. “It’s really, probably the most from-scratch (task) that we’ve had experience with.”
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