Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The "35-10" Phrase

There are around a thousand acronyms that I memorized during a twenty-two year period of service with the Air Force.  Some were worthless, but the only way that you could communicate over some vivid topic deemed of highly significant priority by the Colonel or the First Sergeant.

35-10 was one of those phrases.  It was the regulation that you were introduced to in basic training.....that had to deal with uniform and appearance.

When you talked hair style or length, it was 35-10.  When you talked shoes authorized to wear, it was 35-10.  When you talked the wearing of a hat, it was 35-10.  When you noted the proper wear of a belt, it was 35-10.  And when you noted watches, bracelets, or rings (the quantity).....it was 35-10.

It was around day three of basic training when I was formerly introduced to 35-10, and they were issuing the first uniform package.  The green hat was a thirty-cent hat (by my prospective) and simply didn't fit or look anything like a professional hat.  The pants and blouse-shirt?  Ill-fitting and as cheaply made as possible (I think the shirt was $6 and the pants around $7).  Their initial t-shirt distribution was 50-cent shirts that never made it past forty washes.  The wool socks?  They made your feet sweat in the 95-degree heat of Texas.

The instructor quickly introduced you to 35-10, and you felt there were a lot of rules about clothing, which didn't make much sense.  The black wool socks would have been thrown out the first day, if they hadn't stuck it to you.....via 35-10....that they were awful important.

Around two weeks later, they issued out the blues package.  The bus-driver hat?  It looked like a bus-driver hat, and you just laughed.  The two sets of blues?  One had to be a pure-wool set for winter (it just didn't make any sense to me), and the other some type of summer blend of polyester.  They let you know real quick....there were actual dates set up for the wear of one, versus the other.  If you were spotted in August wearing the winter set.....unless you lived in Iceland.....you were in deep trouble.  The black sock issue for the blues?  They just wouldn't stay up and kept sinking down.

Over the years, I started to notice that they modified 35-10 about every two years.  Up until the late 1980s....they were mostly all minor changes.  You didn't really feel affected much.  In the early 1990s.....changes started to occur once to twice a year, and people started to get frustrated, hostile, and argumentative about the changes.

At some point, badges became important.  For half of my career....I didn't have to think much about this because neither of my professions had a badge.  When they tried to force a badge onto the one profession in the late 1980s....all heck broke loose and a massive amount of criticism came out over it......halting it in a very short period of time.  Five years later....they rammed it back down onto our profession....with no arguments allowed.  The badge deal?  Worthless, except as some boy-scout badge thrill.  It was another $8 that you had to spend for the blues, and $25 for various cloth-type for the battle-dress uniform (mostly to get it sewn on).

The arguments over wear?  I started to notice almost immediately upon my arrival at the first installation....that 35-10 arguments were almost daily, and kinda got worked up like a Baptist minister meeting where the words of Moses were heavily discussed and interpreted in various different ways.

Folks argued over hair styles, moustache lengths, braided hair on women, starch on uniforms, different blends of colors on the stupid belt, the fit of a women's skirt, and even the type of bracelets that folks wore.  On an average base, I'd take a guess that over 3,000 man-hours a year were wasted on these 35-10 discussions and arguments, between 2,500 personnel on the installation.

The cost of uniforms?  I really didn't see an issue until we got to the 1990s and the arrival of the new battle dress uniform.  Between the pants, blouse, black t-shirt, and the sewn-on elements for the blouse....it was roughly $115 (one set).  Considering the old "greens" were around $35....it was a hefty price.

The switch to the black t-shirt deal?  The uniform shop in the early days of the this switch carried a plain vanilla black t-shirt set (three) for roughly $18.  That was reasonable, but then you started to wash these, and the color started to fade after ten wash episodes. The cotton material?  Cheap.  So guys began to discover that you could get a really high-grade fancy black t-shirt, for $24 each.  Yeah, it's fairly hefty amount of money, but I'd take a guess that half of all members went out and spent at least a hundred bucks on a couple of these t-shirts.

The boots?  In basic, they issued you the plain black boots, the chuka boots, and the plain low-quarters.  All together, they probably cost maybe $75.  The low-quarters could always be replaced for around $18.....at least in the 1980s.

But by the 1990s....the newer boots had arrived, and you couldn't find anything that would fit right.....for less than $65.  By the time I reached my last eighteen months.....I'd actually gone out and spent $100 for a pair of great fitting boots (I still have them today but never wear them).

I'd take a guess that my whole bag for basic training uniforms probably cost in the range of $450....which to me in 1977 was substantial.  Today, I doubt if you could buy everything for less than $1200.

The necessity for stringent rules like 35-10?  I guess it's the fact that people will interpret rules in various ways, and start to question things just because it's stupid.  The black wool socks?  It was something out of the 1950s, and I think eighty percent of the Air Force questioned the 35-10 standing on this....but waited patiently almost thirty years to get the rule tossed out.  All the while....they violated the socks directive, and wore white socks whenever in combat boots.

I witnessed an episode around 1983 where some colonel wanted a female lieutenant in the organization to stand and have her dress length measured from her kneecap.  Two inches above the cap was max, and for the sake of the argument....I kinda noted she was pushing four inches easily and it was a fairly short skirt.  It's silly to argue over events like this, and it just starts soap-opera-like events to occur.

It's odd these episodes of life that take up unnecessary pieces of your memory.  There are probably a hundred rules over 35-10 that I retain and can cite on a moment's notice.  Worthless bits of directives......iron-clad stuck in  your mind.

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