Circled insignia implementation dates announced

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mitch Gettle
  • Air Force Print News
Following the Air Force chief of staff's vision of "lasting heritage - limitless horizons," the Air Force uniform board made minor changes to the enlisted uniform. 

These changes include returning to the U.S. insignia with circle for the service dress uniform and the deletion of the optional shoulder board rank for the blue uniform, making the sleeve chevrons mandatory. 

The implementation date for the circled insignia is Jan. 1, 2007, and the date for mandatory wear of chevrons on the sleeves is Oct. 1, Air Force officials said. 

"We are going back to our heritage. (The enlisted) started wearing lapel insignias in December 1902," said Chief Master Sgt. Malcolm McVicar, the director of the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. "The enlisted insignia was on a circular disk and the officer's was not." 

On April 27, 1918, when the Air Service proposed its first collar insignia, the tradition carried on with the enlisted insignia having a circle surround the device. 

The insignia design has changed through the years, but the tradition of the circle around the insignia remained until 1991 when a decision was made to eliminate the collar insignia for all ranks. 

However, by 1995, the collar lapel insignia was brought back with the current U.S. insignia and no circle for all Airmen. 

"Every Air Force uniform board since 1991 has had a request to bring back the circle around the insignia for enlisted wear," Chief McVicar said. "Keeping with General (T. Michael) Moseley's vision on returning to our heritage uniform, the uniform board approved the change." 

The shoulder board rank, originally called shoulder mark insignia, for senior NCOs was first introduced in 1976. 

The shoulder boards were thought of as a way to bring some recognition to the top three NCO ranks, and were approved in 1982. 

In 1991, the chevron designs changed for the top three enlisted ranks by providing immediate recognition at a distance in any uniform combination. 

A stripe was removed from the lower portion of the chevron and added to the top for master, senior and chief master sergeant, to include the chief master sergeant of the Air Force. 

It has been more than 10 years since the new enlisted chevrons were introduced. Since then, there have been numerous recommendations to remove the optional enlisted shoulder boards worn by some within the top three enlisted ranks, Chief McVicar said. 

"This issue was comprehensively addressed with the introduction of our current chevrons that provide easy identification of the top three enlisted ranks with all uniform options," he said. "Again, returning heritage to our uniform, the uniform board removed the shoulder board option." 

The chief master sergeant of the Air Force sees these changes as a way to keep the Air Force's enlisted heritage alive. 

"We are the greatest enlisted Airmen in the world," said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. "The distinct enlisted aspects of our uniform are a tribute to those who served before us and set the solid foundation we follow today. We should take great pride in wearing our stripes on our sleeves and donning the circled lapel insignia."