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Uniform Instructions

Please note: this is not an official document.  It's a memo I wrote up at the request of my group commander several years ago. What's written here is just the advice I (Malcolm Dickinson) would give to you (a new member). Your local unit may think differently about these things and you should certainly go with their opinion rather than mine!  Hopefully this will be helpful in explaining this sometimes confusing subject.

SUBJECT: Uniform Instructions

Welcome to Civil Air Patrol!  One of the first things you will need to do is to assemble a uniform.  The CAP Uniform Manual (CAP Manual 39-1), which is mailed to each new member in a month or two, gives detailed instructions on a dozen different uniform styles.  This memo is intended to get your started with the basic uniform while you wait for that manual to arrive.  There are other dressier uniforms that aren’t covered here – see 39-1.

When to wear the uniform

Uniform wear is expected at group meetings, squadron meetings, training sessions, emergency services exercises, and emergency services missions.  Basically, if it’s a CAP activity, you’ll be expected to attend in uniform - the uniform appropriate to the activity, as described below.  There is some flexibility; if you are coming straight from work to a group or squadron meeting, we’d rather see you attend in your work clothes than not get to see you.  

Do I have to?
The regulation says uniform wear is required on two occasions: 1. when flying in a CAP airplane, and 2. when working with cadets.  So if you are not doing either of these things, no, you're not technically required to wear one. But wearing a uniform (even the simple golf-shirt-and-gray-slacks version), is a good way to show your fellow CAP members that you're enthusiastic and take your participation seriously.

The five most common uniforms, and when they are worn

Uniform                                                                         Worn at

1. Blues* (short sleeved or long sleeved)                            Group meetings, some squadron meetings, classroom training

2. CAP Distinctive – Aviator Shirt                                      Acceptable at any activity except banquets

3. CAP Distinctive – Blazer                                              Acceptable at any activity

4. Battle Dress Uniform (“BDUs")                                   Some squadron meetings, field exercises 
                                                                                    (outdoor training and missions)

5. Flight suit                                                                   Only at activities where you will be flying

Minimum parts to each uniform (see diagrams in CAPM 39-1 for insignia placement)


1. Blues

·   USAF dark blue trousers, pressed

·   USAF light blue shirt (short or long sleeved)

·   USAF blue belt with shiny buckle and tip

·   USAF blue officer’s flight cap with CAP emblem

·   Shined black shoes with smooth toe

·   Black socks

·   White T-shirt*

·   Insignia: Wing patch sewn ½” down from left shoulder [NOTE: this is to be deleted in late 2006], gray nameplate, pilot wings, and either:
Officers: gray epaulets, or
New members: metal "CAP" cutouts on shirt collar


* - If short sleeves are worn, the T-shirt must be V-neck so it does not show. If long sleeves are worn, a USAF blue tie must be worn, with a tie tac or tie bar.

2. Flight Suit

·   USAF sage green flight suit, CWU/27P

·   T-shirt (Black, brown, or white)

·   USAF blue officer’s flight cap with CAP emblem, or CAP baseball cap

·   Insignia: Embroidered CAP crest sewn onto right breast; embroidered US flag sewn ½” down from left shoulder; black leather nametag; plastic-encased grade insignia sewn on shoulders.

3. CAP Distinctive – Aviator Shirt

·   Gray slacks

·   Black belt

·   Black shoes and socks

·   White aviator shirt (short or long sleeves)

·   Insignia: gray nameplate, pilot wings, gray epaulets (officers).

·   It is optional to wear ribbons. If you opt to wear ribbons, you may wear only CAP ribbons, not any earned from other organizations.


Note: if long sleeves are worn, a tie (USAF blue, or CAP blue or maroon) must be worn.


4. CAP Distinctive - Blazer

·   Gray slacks

·   Black belt

·   Black shoes and socks

·   White dress shirt (short or long sleeves) or white turtleneck

·   Blue blazer, single-breasted

·   Tie (blue USAF tie, blue CAP tie, or maroon CAP tie)

·   Insignia: black blazer nameplate; CAP pin-on blazer crest



5. Battle Dress Uniform (BDU)

·   Trousers, woodland camouflage

·   Blouse, woodland camouflage

·   T-shirt, brown or black, crew neck

·   Hat, woodland camouflage

·   USAF blue belt with subdued (black) buckle

·   Black boots (leather combat boots, nylon mesh jungle boots, or similar)

·   Insignia:

-New York Wing patch sewn ½” down from left shoulder

-Embroidered “CAP” on blue background, sewn on left collar, oriented perpendicular to front edge of collar, facing out

-Embroidered blue “CIVIL AIR PATROL” tape sewn above right pocket

-Embroidered blue name tape sewn above left pocket

-Officers: Embroidered grade insignia, sewn on both collars, oriented perpendicular to front edge of collar
New Members: Embroidered “CAP” on blue background, sewn on both collars, oriented perpendicular to front edge of collar, facing out

-Blue embroidered badge, if any (pilot wings, ground team badge, doctor, lawyer, nurse, or EMT) sewn ½” above name tape

Grooming standards for wear of the USAF uniforms with grade insignia

In order to wear the USAF uniforms (blues, flight suit, and BDU), you must meet CAP grooming standards, which are given on the last page of the Uniform Manual (CAPM 39-1).  The standards have two parts: a weight standard, and a standard regarding haircut, mustache, and beard.  If you don’t meet these standards, you may not wear blues, the green flight suit, or the BDU.  

I'm joining CAP. My hair is long or I have a beard. Should I cut my hair? Am I expected to?
No. We are glad to have you as you are!  We aren't the military, and we don't require certain things about your appearance.  Stay as you are, and wear the "CAP Distinctive" uniforms.


Sources for Uniform Items

Vanguard ( )

New items only. All parts to all CAP uniforms, except flight jackets and service coats.
Back-ordered items can take a long time.  Compare the amount of shipping charges to The Hock Shop.

AAFES, 800-527-2345,

New USAF items only (no CAP insignia). Blue shirts, pants, belts, hats, shoes. BDU blouses, trousers, hats, boots, socks. Service coats.
Comment: AAFES' prices are lower than the prices that used to be available at the "CAP Bookstore."  This is the only place (besides a military base) where senior members can buy the blue service coat.

The Hock Shop, 10 Colonial Ter, Brockton  MA  02401-3304
800-843-4625 or 508-586-1415,

Mon-Sat 0800-2000 ET  
On the web at

New items only.  All parts to all CAP uniforms, except flight suits and flight jackets.
Comments: ships very quickly. Prices are lower than those from the old "CAP bookstore." Some of their insignia (ribbons and medals) are identical to those you buy from Vanguard; however I have found that other insignia are of slightly lower quality; the most noticeable difference is in patches (The Hock Shop has their patches made at a cheaper factory) and in the leather pilot wings. You can place your order on the web and pay with a credit card securely.

The following sources carry used flight suits and other used uniforms:

Old Lincoln County, PO Box 1618, Alamogordo  NM  88311-1618

Used uniforms, some in excellent condition, at low prices.

This surplus store is run by a CAP member, and he stocks just about everything that a new CAP member would need except insignia.  For instance: Blue shirts, blue pants, belts, flight caps, service caps, ties, jungle boots, overcoats, field jackets, flight suits, flight jackets, field gear, and outdoor equipment.

Sample prices March 2001: 

Charlie Kellis, 6000 Laurel Wood Dr, Milton FL 32570

Used flight suits, reasonably priced. If he doesn't have your size he'll keep an eye out for one.  Let him know you're in CAP.

Numerous other vendors sell new and used flight suits and flight jackets at airshows such as Oshkosh AirVenture and Sun-n-Fun.  If you or a friend has a program from either airshow, check in there for flight suit dealers, new and used.

Sample price of a used uniform, using the cheapest source for each piece.

Note: if you are shopping for price (e.g., a cadet getting his first uniform and trying to spend as little as possible), the used uniform parts from Old Lincoln County are hard to beat. However, you should compare each item there to The Hock Shop, because sometimes a NEW item from there can be less expensive than a USED item from O.L.C. Here's an example:

-- check back later to see my pricing example --