Combating heat on the flightline

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Farrar
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

The cool, new clothing item on the flightline are shorts authorized as an option for 403rd Maintenance Group and 41st Aerial Port Squadron members to wear instead of the Airman Battle Uniform or Operational Camouflage Pattern trousers.

“Everyone who works outside, loves it,” said Senior Airman Robert Koltas, 403rd Maintenance Squadron propulsion technician. “Everyone who has the shorts, wears them.”

The sweltering heat helped enthusiasm for the shorts. Outdoor temperatures approach 100 degrees during the summer, and the high humidity drives the heat up 10 degrees.

“The sun is pretty treacherous out here,” said Master Sgt. Donald Maloid Jr., 403rd MXS lead propulsion technician. “Wearing the shorts in this kind of climate, morale has definitely increased at least 25 percent,”

In addition to the typical summer climate, the flightline also has solar heat reflected from the concrete and asphalt, as well as heat from running aircraft engines.

The 403rd Maintenance Group and 41st APS personnel can wear designated sage green shorts when the ambient temperature is above 80 degrees. Many summer temperatures can soar past that benchmark, so Airmen sporting shorts on duty are now a common sight.

Before the 403rd Wing authorization, Maloid considered the benefit of a uniform adjustment for a slightly cooler work space. “It was just a dream, ‘What if the military ever came up with shorts?’ I thought, but Nellis Air Force Base beat us to it,” he said. 

Maloid then discovered that Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida had authorized shorts. He thought the climate and working conditions at Keesler were essentially the same as Tyndall. The growing list of bases that authorized shorts also included Luke Air Force Base, Arizona and Kadena Air Base, Japan. He saw the trend and heard positive interest from his Airmen.

“It was during a wing commander’s call meeting, and I was feeling brave that day. I mentioned the other units that have authorized it,” Maloid said.

Maj. Matthew Goldey, 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, was present when Maloid spoke up at the commander’s call. Goldey had experience with the shorts policy since he had served at Tyndall prior to the 403rd Wing. 

He reached out to a contact who shared documents they submitted for authorization. Goldey said he revised the documents a little and sent them up to wing leadership to consider.

The process took months, but the result was a memorandum signed by Col. Jeffrey Van Dootingh, 403rd Wing commander, authorizing shorts for 403rd MXG and 41st APS members on February 14, 2020 for one year. However, there is strict guidance in Keesler AFB Instruction 36-2903 on who is authorized, the ambient temperature conditions required, and where the shorts are authorized for wear. 

Confusion on “where to wear” these shorts brought “heat” on a few Airmen including Koltas. He wore the shorts walking from his car into the Roberts building and was intercepted by an officer.

“The officer noted that the AFI says the shorts cannot be worn outside the flightline or the (Roberts) building,” said Koltas. “That includes coming from the parking lot across the street.” Koltas heard some other Airmen were “busted” at the Base Exchange for wearing the shorts. He advises taking a proactive approach. 

“It’s up to everybody to read the rules because it is true that it can get taken away if there are violations of the policy,” said Koltas. “Just be smart and read the Keesler AFB Instruction 36-2903, so you don’t get in a bad position.”

The two page document is a quick read and has important details on the shorts policy and includes a photo of the authorized sage green shorts. 

Knowing the rules of who, what, when and why shorts are authorized should reduce misinterpretations which could extend the policy beyond its one year run which could be very cool indeed.