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Heritage display shows off prior Air Force uniforms

by Monica Mendoza

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Back in the 1960s, Airmen had to starch their utility fatigue uniforms to make them look sharp.

The two-piece work uniform had been introduced into the Air Force in the 1950s and it was 100 percent cotton.

“The Airmen who wore these called them ‘breaking starch’ – you had to starch it so heavily,” said Jeff Nash, Peterson Air and Space Museum deputy director and curator. “Then, when you put it on, you were basically pulling your legs through the starched pants.”

A 1960s-era, sage green uniform jacket and olive green cap are on display in Mission Support, Building, 350, in one of two heritage display booths sponsored by the Peterson Air and Space Museum. In the 1960s, uniform patches were large and very colorful. The uniform had bright blue name tapes and the olive green cap was nicknamed “The Beetle Bailey” cap, after the famed cartoon strip character.

Also on display in one of the heritage booths is the predecessor to the Air Force Battle Dress Uniform — the 1980s era uniform was a cotton poly blend, or permanent press, and did not require as much starch or ironing, Mr. Nash said. By the 1980s, the Air Force had moved to a more subdued name tape and chevron.

“It’s a step toward being more tactical, more camouflaged so to speak, for a work uniform,” he said.

But, even though the name tapes were more subtle, it was standard to have bright ball caps to show off unit pride. The uniform in the display, with its bright blue ball cap, was donated by Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia Solomito, who is now at Scott Air Force Base, and was on Peterson Airforce Base in 2007.

“I e-mailed Chief Solomito last week and said, ‘Chief, you have entered the realm of being a museum piece,’ – she took it pretty well,” Mr. Nash said.

Want to see more?

Visit the Peterson Air and Space Museum 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. The airpark is available for viewing all the time. The museum’s mission is to preserve and portray the aviation and space history of Colorado Springs and Peterson Air Force Base. It is located within an 8.3 acre Colorado State Historic District, on PAFB. Exhibits feature the WW II Peterson Army Air Base, the Bi-national (United States and Canada) North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Air Force and Army Air Defense Commands, and the U.S. Air Force Space Command. The museum’s airpark collection includes 16 aircraft and six missiles.

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