The Air Force recently updated the contents of “The Enlisted Force Structure and The Profession of Arms: Our Core Values,” more commonly known among Airmen as the “Brown” and “Blue” books. The updates outline modernized development changes within the Air Force, in line with the vision to accelerate change. Travis Burcham/USAF
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World: Culture

July 1, 2022

USAF Updates its Brown and Blue Books  

By Greg Hadley 

The Air Force updated its Blue and Brown Books in May, issuing new versions of the blue “Profession of Arms: Our Core Values” and the brown “Enlisted Force Structure.”  

The new texts come as USAF pivots away from conflict in the Middle East to meet peer threats from China and Russia, necessitating fundamental changes in the way Airmen approach the future. 

“In order for us to have talented Airmen that we need in the Air Force of 2030, we can’t just … walk through the motions and haphazardly get after stuff and update as needed,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass told Air Force Magazine. “We need to be deliberate about every single thing that we’re doing.” 

In order for us to have talented Airmen that we we need in the Air Force of 2030, we can’t just … walk through the motions.CMSAF JoAnne Bass

The new Books are now available online, and printed copies will be provided to new recruits, at professional military education centers, and through combat aviation advisers. Individual commands will also receive details on how to get hard copies. 

The Little Blue Book  

In the mid 1990s, Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman turned to Gen. Billy J. Boles, head of Air Education and Training Command, to codify the service’s core values—integrity, service, and excellence—to create a slim pamphlet to promulgate those ideas across the force. Dubbed the “Little Blue Book,” it was actually an update to Air Force Regulation 30-1, “Air Force Standards,” first published in 1983. 

The new version is just 16 pages, including the Airman’s Creed, the Code of Conduct, the Air Force Oaths, and the Core Values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.  

Included in the new version, however, is a paragraph reiterating that Airmen have a responsibility to not engage in or tolerate “harassment, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, bullying, extremism, and discrimination.” Another change: a new section under Integrity First that highlights personal humility. 

“A person of integrity grasps and is sobered by the extraordinary task of defending the Constitution of the United States,” the new paragraph reads. “We practice humility by putting others before ourselves. We seek to add value through community and humanitarian support. We serve with gratitude and without arrogance.” 

The new Blue Book closes with the Air Force’s new mission statement, released in 2021: “To fly, fight, and win … air power anytime, anywhere.” 

The Little Brown Book 

Th brown book, better known as Air Force Instruction 36-2618, “The Enlisted Force Structure,” is given to every Airmen at Basic Military Training. It spells out the “professional standards and roles and responsibilities for each enlisted rank,” laying down the structure that governs more than 265,000 enlisted Airmen. 

The new edition includes expanded sections detailing the Air Force’s core missions, the Air Force Speciality Codes, and the concept of multi-capable Airmen—a key tenet of the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment concept. It too emphasizes that all Airmen have a responsibility to help foster “a culture of respect and trust,” and adds sections on teamwork, leadership, and “followership.” 

The publication also includes a new chapter dedicated to the Air Force’s 24 foundational competencies and 10 Airman Leadership Qualities, which will form the basis for the service’s feedback, evaluation, and development. 

The ALQs, in particular, “represent the performance characteristics we want to define, develop, incentivize, and measure in our Airmen,” Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in a recent Air Force release. These include: job proficiency, initiative, adaptability, inclusion and teamwork, emotional intelligence, communication, stewardship, accountability, decision-making, and innovation—and including them in the document that defines the DNA of the enlisted force is a natural fit. 

What’s Next  

In April the Air Force released “The Blueprint,” a 32-page resource and reference for enlisted Airmen containing essential information on everything from Air Force Specialty Codes to different programs Airmen can tap into when leaving the service. Bass calls it a “cradle-to-grave blueprint on an Airman’s career.”  

“We’ve got to think about the long game, and we have to play the long game,” Bass said. “And if we’re going to tap the Airmen that we need, whether it’s 2030, 2035, 2040, it has to be deliberate.” 

There’s still one more foundational document to come—the “Purple Book.” As detailed in the Action Plan, the Purple Book will include “values, capabilities, and warfighting concepts of the joint force team and [connect] Air Force doctrine to the Department of Defense purpose and mission.” 

The Air Force’s push to tie itself more deeply to the joint force has been underway for years—the vision of a tightly integrated joint force was perhaps the defining legacy of former Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein—and the Purple Book, targeted for release this summer, seeks to help Airmen further that goal. 

“Our team will work with the J7 [joint force development] to help develop a Purple Book that will be focused on how developing the joint leaders that we need, that are able to talk joint, train joint, and to some degree, understand and integrate more … with our brothers and sisters from the other services,” Bass said. 

Refusing COVID Vaccine Draws General Discharge in Most Case

By Greg Hadley

The Air Force has now separated 287 Airmen for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and 281—98 percent—received general discharges, the service reported to Congress in April. The Space Force, meanwhile, has yet to discharge a single Guardian for vaccine refusal. Three U.S. Air Force Academy cadets were allowed to graduate but could not be commissioned after declining vaccination.  

Other services separated far more members as a result of the vaccine dispute. As of late April, the Marine Corps had separated 1,968 Marines; the Navy 798 Sailors; and the Army 345 Soldiers.  

Under the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, service members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine cannot receive anything less than a general discharge under honorable conditions.  

The Air and Space Forces have thus far discharged the fewest members for declining the COVID-19 vaccine. Joshua Seybert/USAF

The services, however, have taken very different approaches beyond that. The Marine Corps has given 78 percent of those it separated a general discharge, while the Navy has given all honorable discharges. The Air Force has granted the fewest honorable discharges. 

The difference has significant implications for future benefits: Those with a general discharge do not qualify for the educational benefits from the GI Bill, which can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nor can they typically re-enlist in the service later.  

For the three graduating Air Force Academy cadets, the stakes remain unsettled. The Academy Board decided to permit the three to graduate with bachelor of science degrees but withhold commissions “as long as they remain unvaccinated.” The three have until Aug. 1 to comply, or risk having to reimburse the government for the cost of their four-year degrees.               

Air Force E-7 Promotion Rate Hits Lowest Point in More than a Decade 

By Greg Hadley

Only 14.8 percent of eligible tech sergeants were selected for promotion to master sergeant in the latest promotion cycle, the lowest rate since 2010. Some 4,040 tech sergeants will advance to master sergeant, the fewest in years. 

Recent changes to the enlisted grade structure were partly to blame, but the greater factor was the record-high retention in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased the number of candidates.  

The last time rates dipped below 20 percent was 2013 and 2014, when force reductions led to reduced promotion rates.   


Space Force OKs Neck Tattoos, USAF Eyes Bushier Mustaches  

By Greg Hadley 

The Space Force eased appearance and uniform policies in May for tattoos, facial hair, and makeup. And the Air Force may soon follow suit.  

The Space Force’s new Guidance Memorandum allows Guardians to sport a one-inch neck tattoo—as long as it remains in the back of the neck. Like the Air Force, the Space Force will also allow one tattoo per hand in the shape of a ring, no more than 3/8 of an inch wide. 

“There are no other size or placement limitations on tattoos,” as long as they comply with Department of the Air Force regulations, the memo adds. 

The Space Force also authorized longer mustaches, extending 1/4 of an inch horizontally from the corners of the mouth, in line with proposed changes anticipated from the Air Force, which currently limits mustaches to extend only to the corners of the mouth. A leaked Air Force memo detailing the same standards as the Space Force circulated on social media recently, but no official changes have been announced for the older service. 

Airmen of past years might be surprised to learn that the Space Force will allow male Guardians to wear cosmetics, such as foundation and concealer, “to cover scars or blemishes.” 

In addition to those grooming and appearance standards, the Space Force memo also laid out several new uniform policies and pieces for Guardians’ Air Force dress uniforms, while the Space Force waits for its own version. 

Those changes were previewed by Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman earlier this year in a video message sent to Guardians in which he said the moves were intended to “space it up a little bit.” 

Among the tweaks, Guardians will now be able to wear the service’s enlisted rank insignia as available. They can also swap out the buttons on their service dress coat to ones that feature the Space Force’s “Delta, Globe, and Orbit,” switch their nameplates to hexagonal ones, wear new U.S. collar insignia also featuring a hexagon, and sport the new Space Force Service Cap Badge on wheel and bucket caps. 

Finally, the memo allows Guardians to wear gray shirts and black shorts or seats as PT gear “in lieu of the Air Force PTG pending release and availability of the official Space Force PTG at a Guardian’s home station military clothing sales store.”       

Six Pilots Set AMC Endurance Record With 24.2-Hour KC-46 Tanker Flight

By Greg Hadley 

A KC-46 Pegasus crewed by Airmen from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing stayed aloft for more than 24 hours, establishing a new Air Mobility Command record and covering more than 9,000 miles in their flight, the Air Force announced in May. 

The 24.2-hour, record-breaking flight—which lasted from May 5 to 6—demonstrated the KC-46‘s endurance. Six pilots, three boom operators, a photojournalist, and a physician assistant took part in the flight. Two-pilot teams swapping out every four hours while a backup pilot team gathered data and took notes. The physician assistant monitored the aircrew for health and safety. 

During the flight, the KC-46 performed dry contacts with another KC-46, refueled four Marine Corps F-35s, and was itself refueled by another KC-46. The flight path included both the northern and southern borders of the U.S., as well as the East and West Coasts. Aviation enthusiasts tracked the flight path, which started and ended at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., passing over roughly three dozen states. 

Planning for the flight took several weeks and required in-the-air adjustments, according to the Air Force, as severe weather in certain areas forced the crew to adjust the route.  

“This 24-hour sortie is a critical step in the operational evolution of tankers and the role the KC-46 plays in that,” Col. Nate Vogel, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander, said in the statement. “This sortie helps mobility forces identify how best to operate on long-duration sorties from human, to machine, to mission aspects. Long-duration flights are inherently full of risk, and conducting this operation now allows us to identify those risks, and then build and apply mitigations in a more controlled environment.” 

While the May 5 to 6 flight marks a new record for AMC, past Air Force flights lasted longer. In 2001, B-2 bombers flew from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., across the Pacific to strike Afghanistan at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, spending 40 consecutive hours in the air.