Archived Story

COLUMN: Beards in boot camp?

Published 4:28pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The U.S. Army is now allowing soldiers to make choices when it comes to grooming and dress.

I couldn’t believe my eyes recently when I saw a group of Army recruits pop up on the television screen as models for what is being proposed as acceptable on the faces, heads and backs of today’s military personnel.

One had a full-length black beard complete with sideburns and a mop of hair on his head; another wore a turban and had whiskers that hadn’t seen a razor in a month; and yet another was as bald as an onion and had a ring in his ear.

“What has the military come to?” I thought. “This would’ve never worked when I was in the Air Force.”

One of the hard and fast Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) my buddies and I learned on the first night of the first day of basic training was to shave our faces every morning before falling out for PT (physical training).

Our tactical instructor, a no-nonsense sergeant who despised having to repeat an order, growled his instructions while all 60 of us were crowded around the wall-mounted urinals and commodes in the latrine.

“Listen up,” he yelled. “This is a latrine. You use it to relieve yourself, take a shower, wash your fatigues, brush your teeth and shave your face. It will serve you well if you respect it.

“I say that because most of you are farm boys from Georgia and Alabama where indoor toilets are a luxury not a necessity.”

“Sir, what if you’ve never shaved?” asked a trainee.

“Everybody shaves, no exceptions,” the TI relied.

“A final note is this,” he added. ” This latrine is subject to daily inspections. I expect it to be clean enough to eat off the floor.”

The rules for being in the proper uniform at all times were equally as strict.

Everyone was issued the same clothing and accessories and was required to be properly dressed while on duty. For example, caps and fatigues had to be clean and pressed, shoes had to be cleaned and shined every day and socks, shorts and undershirts had to rolled and displayed in footlockers for daily inspection.

A question that begs for an answer is “what will our military personnel look like in the future? Whatever it is, let’s hope it will not get in their way when training them fighting skills, teamwork and devotion to duty.

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer

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