Do you do it? Why or why not? We are past the years when we were required to travel in uniform in order to remind the public that we were a nation at war. Now it is optional for most military members and dependend primarily on mission and commander’s descretion. I am going to address the legal aspects of traveling in uniform in this column and next time discuss the moral issues.
Legally, a commander is at his or her descretion as to whether to require you to travel in uniform or even forbid you to do so. In the 90’s it was thought to be a counter-terrorism measure to forbid the wearing of the uniform on a plane. I never bought this argument as it is pretty easy to pick out a military guy or gal even when they are not in uniform – the haircut being the most obvious thing for the guys. I was OK for a while when the rules went out in 2003 or 2004 that required us to wear uniforms – except they were damn unconfortable on long flights!
The plusses and minuses in my view:
+ The airline staff, from CSA to pilots, fall all over themselves to thank you for your service as well as many other travellers.
+ Freebies can come your way. Everything from free upgrades to free drinks (watch out on those) not to mention boarding first on several airlines. Continental started this in 2009 and it has translated over to United after the merger. Other airlines are known to do so, but I haven’t found them to do so consistently. Alaska and American being the most frequent.
+ Airports are starting to give service members access to TSA Pre-Check so speed you through processing. Even without that, many airports in military towns allow you to go through security with your boots on.
+ When you land, you are ready to go to your meeting or whatever duty awaits you if you have to work that day.
– Wearing the uniform on a long flight is not too comfortable, especially the boots. While technically not allowed, I usually loosen my lacesand stick my feet usder the seat in front of me. Bad for circulation not to do that!
– Getting through security can take a while when you have to remove your boots, blouse, and belt and the stricter airports.
– Your uniform doesn’t exactly look the best after sitting on a long flight. Niether do you if it is a eleven hour red-eye and you arrive with beard stubble. Embarrassing.
– Many think that you should not drink while in uniform, although I can find no regulation against it. If someone out there has definitive information about that, please let me know.
Lastly, I just completed the Senior Leaders Legal Orientation Course at the JAG school in Charlottesville, VA. While they confirmed my reading of the JTR on upgrades, an interesting situation came up. If you know you are flying in premium class, you are forbidden from wearing your uniform. However, if you arrive at the airport and get a battlefield upgrade, then it is acceptable.
So tell me what you all of you do and what are your views in traveling in uniform?