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Civil Air Patrol Reflects Diversity in New Uniform Wear Rules

August 20, 2021

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Sioux Falls - Civil Air Patrol has amended its uniform rules to allow more flexibility in women’s hairstyles while in uniform. The changes match the United States Air Force changes that became effective in June.

As the civilian volunteer of the Air Force, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) members wearing Air Force-style uniforms are expected to comply with grooming standards.

“In aligning itself with the Air Force changes, CAP is reflecting the spirit of diversity,” said Lt. Travis Robinson, CAP’s South Dakota Wing diversity officer. “Women of some ethnic backgrounds had a lot of trouble complying with the previous restrictions.”

The Air Force changed its guidance in June based on feedback from thousands of women in the Air Force that the previous constraints to women’s hair grooming standards could result in damage to hair, migraines, and in some cases, hair loss, for women of certain hair types. The revision to CAP policy was effective August 9.

The updated CAP rules say that if women’s hair is pulled back and secured behind the head, one or two braids or a single ponytail may be worn with length not extending below a horizontal line running between the top of each sleeve inseam at the underarm through the shoulder blades. The hair radius may not exceed 6 inches from the point where the hair is gathered and must allow for proper wear of headgear.

“The changes in women's hairstyles in the military are a good reflection of the changes in society in dealing with the diversity of those choosing to enter the military,” said Col. Mary Donley, former South Dakota Wing commander. “Women, in general, have had to deal with challenges when it comes to hairstyles and grooming standards.  This is a positive change that will help women in the military handle the many opportunities they are being given.”

As an alternative to CAP’s Air Force-style blue and ABU uniforms, adult members may wear “CAP distinctive” uniforms, which do not have weight and grooming standards. All youth members, known as cadets, wear Air Force-style uniforms, although without weight standards. All CAP uniforms bear insignia distinctive to the organization.

Other CAP uniform changes this month add guidance about medical waivers and mask wear.

CAP is the civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, with responsibilities that are part of the USAF’s support to civil authorities to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance.

CAP has over 400 members in South Dakota with units in Brookings, Custer, Miller, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Spearfish and Tea. The wing can deploy its six aircraft, ground teams and small search drones to assist in emergency response and other support to local, state, tribal and federal agencies.

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