2021 has been the year of uniform changes and updates. In the next few years you may not even recognize the military, thanks to service members with frosted tips, new camo patterns, and badge placements. Some of the changes are to apparel and making service uniforms more accommodating for all, and other changes relate to grooming standards. 

The Air Force began letting Airman wear its new Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) full time beginning October 1, 2018. But it did not become the official uniform until April of this year. Now both Airmen and Guardians have officially switched over to the new uniform. If you still have your uniforms and don’t know what to do with them, the Civil Air Patrol is asking for new or gently used uniforms.

Earlier this year the Air Force announced a new flight suit specifically designed for pregnant women. The development for these flight suits happened in the second half of 2020. With the formal announcement, there was some backlash from some new sources about this change. The Navy followed the Air Force’s lead a few months later in a quieter fashion.

The Air Force removed the medical waiver requirement in 2019 for pregnant pilots who wanted to fly later into their pregnancies. “Prior to the maternity flight suit, pregnant aircrew have generally collected larger-sized flight suits and gone up through additional sizes throughout their pregnancy, potentially needing three to five additional flight suits,” said Lt Cmdr. Jacqueline Nordan. With the role of women in the military increasing and the fact that women still wear flight suits even when grounded due to physical constraint. It shows the need for this change is one that the service has needed to address for a long time. And safety was also a driving factor to develop these new flight suits.

“A single adjustable flight suit can expand across multiple trimesters depending on each pregnancy, saving pregnant aircrew the added expense associated with purchasing multiple flight suits, as well as the cost of tailoring larger-sized flight suits historically purchased to accommodate the changing pregnant forms,” said Amie Blade.

Military Gets Groomed

There have also been formal grooming standard changes for both male and female service members. While need ponytails and braids have made the biggest splash in new sources. Currently, the Air Force, Army, and Navy all allow women to wear braids and ponytails but the Marines could follow the change later this year.

Along with ponytails being a new option for women in the Army. Both men and women now will be allowed to have hair highlights that are uniform and natural-looking. And women are allowed to wear neutral colors and men are allowed to now wear clear nail polish.

Another big change to the Army uniform was the World War II-style Army Green Service Uniform (AGSU) and a new name for the combat patch. The AGSU was allowed for everyday wear in late 2018. Soldiers will have the option to purchase the AGSU until October 1, 2027, then the ASU will become the Army’s optional dress uniform.

The combat patch officially known as the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia Former Wartime Service will now be called the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia Military Operations in Hostile Conditions. This patch is authorized for not only Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers who served on combat deployments. But also for soldiers who served in certain countries considered hostile areas.

These are just a few of the major changes coming to military uniforms. The Army has a number of other changes not mentioned in this article related to breastfeeding, regulations related to the National Guard, and more.


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Amanda is a military spouse and veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career. She published her first book in 2019 titled Women of the Military, sharing the stories of 28 military women. In 2019 she also launched her podcast also titled Women of the Military. In 2020, she was published as a collaborative author in Brave Women Strong Faith. And in 2021, she launched a YouTube channel to help young women answer their questions about military life, Girl’s Guide to the Military. You can learn more about Amanda at her blog Airman to Mom.