KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- As the Okinawa sun beats down on the flight line, Airmen at Kadena Air Base, Japan, must get creative in order to beat the heat and humidity. To help Airmen combat the blazing temperatures, the Air Force had an ace up its sleeve: blue uniform shorts.
18th Maintenance Group Airmen were issued shorts to wear on the flight line to alleviate some of the heat stress soon to be brought on by the hot, Okinawan summers. Flight line authorization of the shorts was a direct result of feedback provided from maintenance Airmen to their leadership.
“We started noticing maintenance organizations in hot weather environments across the Air Force allowing their Airmen the option to wear shorts,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Austin, 18th Maintenance Group superintendent. “Our commander was fully onboard in getting shorts approved for our maintainers and told me to make it happen. When my Airmen need something, it’s my job as a Chief to make sure they get it.”
Other bases that struggle with hot climates, such as Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Luke AFB in Arizona and Tyndall AFB in Florida, began issuing shorts to Airmen last summer. While many Airmen around the world are now enjoying the benefits of this modified uniform, they are not authorized to be worn everywhere a traditional uniform is allowed. The shorts may only be worn on the flight line and the flight line dining facility and members must change out of them before leaving those areas.
After working through the mechanics of how to purchase the shorts, the 18 MXG resource advisors researched what type of shorts were most appropriate for the flight line, finally choosing those typically worn in the maintenance and construction fields in the civilian sector. The shorts are tough, flexible and stain-resistant and Airmen noticed the desired effect almost immediately.
“I’m always hot out on the flight line,” said Airman 1st Class Richard Flagg, 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. “Even at night I’m hot outside so these shorts are really nice for keeping cool.”
Along with the work shorts allowing Airmen to be more productive and comfortable in their work environment, they also came with the added bonus of allowing them to enjoy the cool, island breeze.
“I think this will improve morale and productivity,” Flagg said. “If you feel bad then you’re probably not going to be as productive compared to if you’re comfortable. I know when I feel good I want to work harder.”
Austin explained the shorts will assist Airmen from overheating in temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels that climb to 95 percent—which is typical of Okinawan summers—while allowing them to proficiently perform at a more consistent level throughout their shifts.
“Wearing these shorts on the flight line is such a cool and unique opportunity for us,” Austin said. “Being able to have happier, more productive Airmen is always the goal, so we can continue to build and maintain a more lethal force.”