Fixing aircraft at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base can be a scorcher.
The mercury on its flightline can top 120 degrees during the dog days of summer, base officials said in a Thursday email, and airmen who work long hours there can be at high risk for heat stress.
To help airmen deal with that punishing heat, Nellis has a secret weapon: Dad shorts.
A photograph of the Tactical Cargo Shorts (our name, not theirs) hit the unofficial Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco Monday evening, prompting literally hundreds of snarky comments and GIFs in response. (Our favorite was the shorts photoshopped onto Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright.)
Nick Janeway, a spokesman for Nellis’ 57th Maintenance Group, said base leaders asked technicians working on the roasting flightline for suggestions on how to improve their quality of life. Airmen suggested, and Nellis approved, both shorts and cooling vests as authorized flightline wear.
But the Air Force doesn’t just throw a change like that out into the field. It first requires testing and study. So, the initial test cadre is now being selected and their measurements are being taken. The first shorts should be delivered within the next 45 days, Janeway said.
After the testers provide their feedback (one possible suggestion: “Add more pockets”), Nellis will start a phased roll-out of the shorts to all technicians in the 57th Maintenance Group. They will also receive cooling vests.
Within four months, Janeway said, the shorts are expected to be widely fielded throughout the 57th.
These shorts are not a uniform item, Janeway said, but are for utility use only in maintenance areas. Airmen will not be allowed to wear them as uniforms outside of their immediate work areas, similar to rules governing coveralls.
They will be allowed year-round, Janeway said, but technicians will still be required to wear proper protective clothing when required. In addition to the shorts and the cooling vests, the 57th is also getting airmen lightweight work pants and ballistic sunglasses for eye protection to improve their work life.
“The technicians of the 57th Maintenance Group are our most important mission-generation resource,” Janeway said. “Investing in our airmen is critical to ensure America’s air dominance and success in the high-end fight.”
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.