About 600,000 Air Force Standards blue books soon will be sent to installations. The book allows airmen to carry the all-inclusive AFI 1-1 with them. (Alan Lessig/Air Force Times)
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There’s another “blue book” available, but rather than determining car values like the Kelley Blue Book, this one encapsulates the values of the Air Force.
In the coming weeks, 600,000 blue booklets will flood Air Force installations. The contents of the 34-page, pocket-sized booklet could be dubbed a parting gift from former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.
The blue booklet is a bound copy of Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, which is like a Cliffs Note to all Air Force instructions and standards, said Scott Martin, senior air staff counsel assigned to the service’s administrative law directorate. The blue booklet, which contains AFI 1-1 in its entirety, was printed at the behest of Schwartz, who wanted to make sure every airman had a personal copy of it.
It was the culmination of Schwartz’s efforts to prepare for a service where “don’t ask, don’t tell” no longer exists, diversity is a stated strength and social media can kill careers, said Martin, who led development of the instruction.
“It literally is the AFI,” Martin said of the pocket-sized guide. “There is nothing different. The idea behind it is that an airman could carry it in his ABU pocket, or the back pocket of his uniform if he were so inclined, and refer to it.”
Not a first edition
While the little blue book of Air Force standards will be new to many of today’s airmen, it’s not the first time the service has produced such a book. Martin, who retired as a colonel in 2010, said in 1983, there was a little blue book entitled, “Air Force Standards.” When Schwartz saw it, he immediately wanted to recreate it with AFI 1-1. The little book, which then included standards about public displays of affection and prohibitions against same-sex relationships, disappeared around the time the Air Force switched from calling its rules “instructions” instead of regulations.
It's about more than religion
AFI 1-1 has three chapters that cover the Air Force environment, conduct and appearance. Martin said the instruction was developed as the service looked to purge its rules of language that prohibited homosexuality. “[The AFI] talks about a variety of standards out there,” he said. “It talks about protocol and how you’re supposed to show the proper respect for the flag or to the president. It talks about contemporary issues like social media. It’s a handy guide if you’re trying to think of what is the uniform AFI that talks about tattoos, or the proper wear of the uniform.”
Really, it's not about religion
Gen. Schwartz made headlines and boiled the blood of many conservative Christians when he issued a memorandum to his commanders entitled “Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion,” in which he cautioned leaders to avoid even the appearance of using their position to proselytize. Much of what Schwartz recommended to commanders is now codified in AF 1-1.
That's an order, airman
The standards outlined in the booklet are as real and mandatory as any specific AFI on the subjects covered in each of the instruction’s chapters, Martin said. But AFI 1-1 doesn’t require you to follow any standards that don’t already exist. “There is nothing different about this instruction from any other instruction out there,” he said. “When we publish an instruction at the direction of the Air Force, it is mandatory for us to abide by it.”
Tools at your fingertips
Martin said when AFI 1-1 was vetted with commanders, it was highlighted as a tool for first-line supervisors and their subordinates to address the contemporary issues that they and their airmen face daily. Whether it’s questions about social media and venting on blogs, resiliency, sexual assault or religion, AFI 1-1 covers it. “The goal behind this was to provide tools for airmen and supervisors to utilize in addressing the various issues they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis,” Martin said.