Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Christy Nolta said the agency imposed the ban following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington to protect its personnel from being singled out by possible terrorists aboard commercial flights. The ban, which lasts indefinitely and only affects senior officers, went into effect Sept. 21.
Nolta said the Air Force recommended last year that officers at the level of colonel and above wear their uniforms during official travel for recruitment and retention purposes. There was no official memo on the new policy, just a verbal announcement by the service's top leaders, Nolta said.
Each military branch makes its own decisions about wearing uniforms while on official travel, said Susan Hansen, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The Army, for example, gives its officers the option of wearing their uniforms on commercial flights. "We have not changed our policy" in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, said Army spokeswoman Diane Grant.
Marine Corps personnel also have a choice when it comes to wearing their uniforms on official travel. "It's optional, although some travel orders may instruct officers to wear their uniforms," said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Giannetti, a spokesman for the service. Giannetti said Marine Corps leaders have not ordered any changes to the dress policy because of the terrorist attacks.
In the Navy, senior officers do not wear their uniforms on official travel on civilian airliners outside the United States, according to Navy spokeswoman Lt. Elissa Smith. When traveling within the U.S., officers can choose whether to wear their uniforms. Smith said those policies will remain the same.