Dress (and behave) for success - use AFI 36-2903

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Caitlin O'Neil-McKeown/RELEASED)

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Caitlin O'Neil-McKeown/RELEASED)

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Caitlin O'Neil-McKeown/RELEASED)

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Caitlin O'Neil-McKeown/RELEASED)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- "The more things change, the more they stay the same" - not sure who said it first, but it's definitely something we can apply to the July 2011-updated Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Appearance of Air Force Personnel. I could quote the darn thing and bore you to tears, but I'll just put it this way: To be successful in the military, you have to dress and behave for success!

Looking and acting like you only have a passing acquaintance with dress and appearance standards CAN have an effect on your career. Remember box #2 on the EPR? It says "Standards, Conduct, Character & Military Bearing," and in the feedback forms we get it specifically mentions dress and appearance.

No matter what the uniform of the day, wear it with pride and keep it clean - for those who do icky-sticky-oily jobs, do your best because we supervisors know it can be a royal pain to get certain things out of those uniforms.

Now, you're probably thinking "I follow the rules, my buddies follow the rules - so why do they come out with this huge 179-page book telling me how I should look?"

I'll answer with another question: Why did they have to put the common-sense labels on items we buy (hello "don't use the hair dryer and take a bath at the same time" labels)? It's because there is that small minority of people who don't (or won't) follow the rules who ruin it for the rest of us.

And while there might be a few Airmen in our Air Force (both officer and enlisted) who are in the "don't care" category, the majority of our Airmen - especially the junior Airmen - don't intentionally ignore the rules; they might not know they're rule-breakers. This is where good supervision can make all the difference.

For supervisors, see if you know the answers to these questions and/or where in the AFI you can find them (Airmen, feel free to quiz your bosses!):

1. Where should a male Airman's sideburns stop?
2. How can you tell if a tattoo is within regulations? (Hint: it's not just about how big it is either, that's the second part.)
3. What is NOT worn on the semi-formal coat?
4. How do you wear the pleats in the cummerbund in formal dress? (Bonus question: Why?)
5. How many occupational badges are you allowed to wear on both blues and ABUs?
6. When is the mandatory wear date for the ABU?
7. Are you allowed to walk and talk on a cell phone while in uniform? (careful - it changed again!)
8. What head cover(s) are you allowed to wear with the physical training uniform?
9. Do you have to come to attention and salute for reveille and retreat while in the PTU? Do you have to salute officers while in the PTU?
10. Where can you find all of this information?

(Don't know the answers? Fear not, we'll post them to the official Hurlburt Field Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HurlburtFieldOfficial on Friday, Aug. 19.)

One thing I have learned in my 14 years of Air Force experience is this: if you want to be taken seriously, you have to look sharp from head to toe. Whether you're a brand-new, straight-out-of-tech-school Airman or a two-star general, looking good is the easiest way to help get your way.

So look at a mirror and ask yourself: "Do I dress (and behave) for success?"