Posted on Mar 25, 2015
1st Lt Theater Watch Officer
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Tejdeep_singh_rattan
In modern times, many police and military forces prohibit beards for one important reason that came up during World War I. In order to get a clean seal on a gas mask, you must have a clean face, so soldiers made sure to shave. They may or may not have been worried about the pulling of beards during hand-to-hand combat, as Alexander the Great was.

Excluding limited exemptions for religious accommodation, the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps have policies that prohibit beards on the basis of hygiene, the necessity of a good seal for chemical weapon protective masks, and the official position that uniform personal appearance and grooming contribute to discipline and a sense of camaraderie.

All branches of the U.S. Military currently prohibit beards for a vast majority of recruits, although some mustaches are still allowed, based on policies that were initiated during the period of World War I.

So, the discussion is, Should military branches change the policy on shaving due to a legacy concern of chemical/biological warfare from WWI?

IMO, Proper grooming standards should be considered. If a service member wants to grow facial hair while not in a deployed location where the threat of a chemical/biological attack could occur (this is hardly in any theater of operations anymore due to many regulations implemented internationally to destroy & manage chemical/biological weapons), they should be allowed to, but in consideration of grooming standards (i.e. length of facial hair, must represent professional appearance, etc.)

Photo: U.S. Army Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, 2010
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Responses: 126
SFC Walter Mack
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I think if we spent less time worrying about facial hair and more time getting our weapons out of the armory and teaching Soldiers to Soldier, then it would have a tremendous impact on our warfighting ability.

Beards only bother many Soldiers because they're taught to hate them during training. This is dumb as crap. If maintaining a disciplined approach to your day to day activities by doing repetitive yet easily inspected work were really important, than we would still be shining boots. We would have nice neat creases in our combat uniforms. The shaving standard is the last bastion of a culture that uses repetitive activity as a way of discerning discipline and consistency.

I'll meet you in the middle. You let me grow a beard, and I'll gladly starch my uniform and get out the black boots. They'll shine extra bright so I can see my beard in them.
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SFC Walter Mack
SFC Walter Mack
>1 y
Honestly, I'll chance it. Also, the mask doesn't filter out carbon monoxide. You need a contained suit for that, which allows for a beard, which firefighters in many places have. A mask without a carried oxygen source does you little good in a fire. I am a respiratory therapist, with a very thorough understanding of what it is we are defending against. I don't buy any argument that a day's missed shave should be the most important part of my day. Nope, still not convinced. Good try though.
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1SG Retired
1SG (Join to see)
>1 y
SSgt Tye Keppler - If you take a look at most of the pictures of SF in theater, you'll note the absence of a protective mask. They carry it, or not, based on risk.
A beard can prevent a proper seal of the protective mask, but the length permitted for a Soldier with a shaving profile shouldn't interfere with achieving a seal.
If there is a risk, or scheduled training, shave. No risk, no scheduled training, pick the length, grooming standard (e.g. edged, no more than 1" in length, no lines cut into it, no coloring blue, whatever the decision makers decide), and update AR 670-1.
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GySgt Team Chief
GySgt (Join to see)
9 mo
1st Lt (Join to see) I’m pretty sure hazing was the discipline that worked so well.
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GySgt Team Chief
GySgt (Join to see)
9 mo
As long as the enemy doesn’t have NVGs they won’t see a giant, glowing, man shaped starch bomb running through the night, in his freshly starched uniform.

Starch is highly reflective under IR which is why:

A: it states in you BDUs not to use starch
B: it’s reflectivity is the reason we don’t anymore.

However I’m sure some Salty old bastards still do it in spite.
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LCDR District Chaplain
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69
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I would love to see this policy changed. I see people all the time with beards in uniforms for one reason or another. If the reason we can't have beards is in order to get a good seal on the gas mask, then are we telling the people with sensitive skin who get no-shave chits or the people that have religious accommodations that they are expendable? I've heard others bring up the argument, "Well some people can't grow a beard or it comes in patchy and wouldn't look good," or, "People would push the limits and not follow the grooming standards." Have you seen some of the cheesy mustaches that people wear in the military? And as far as pushing the standards, that's one of the jobs for small unit leaders, to ensure that their subordinates maintain the standards. They already do it with current hair and mustache standards so why do we assume that grooming standards for beards would not be enforced in the same way?
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LTC Bink Romanick
LTC Bink Romanick
>1 y
The Israeli army has developed a mask that seals over bearded faces.
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LTC Bink Romanick
LTC Bink Romanick
>1 y
I have a cheesy mustache, I've had a cheesy mustache since 4 July 69. I made it to SSG with a cheesy mustache and to LTC with a Cheesy mustache so LT maybe if you grew a cheesy mustache you could be a success too. just advice from an old soldier.
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LCDR District Chaplain
LCDR (Join to see)
>1 y
LTC Bink Romanick Thanks for the advice sir. But it would never work. I've tried growing just a mustache before. There's no way I would be promoted. The board would be laughing too hard. :)
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SSgt Rob Millard
SSgt Rob Millard
>1 y
You do make some valid points. However, in my opinion, the single most important argument to maintain the standard is for the preservation of uniformity. As military members, we are trained from the very beginning that there is something larger than the individual. That sense of spirit de corps and dedication to the unit as a whole are reinforced in the wearing of a uniform that every person must wear in the exact same manner. Sadly, it appears that the military is contemplating more and more the open expression of individuality over the whole. I don't care specifically about the wearing of a beard. Nor do I care specifically about men wearing earrings. However, when in a uniform of the United States Military, you should present a standard that is EXACTLY uniform with the military member standing beside you.
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SFC Platoon Sergeant
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My answer is going to very unpopular. I say change the standard but not in the way people think. I say aside from our Speciel Operation units that sometimes must grow a beard no one should have one. No exeptions for religion, no exeptions for razor burn. No exemptions. The only reason i saw Spec Ops is because i see it as a part of the uniform depending on the mission. They dont where big grizzley beards all the time. Only in the parts of the world that not looking like a Soldier is advantage to them. It is a uniform item to them not a fasion statement.
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1SG Retired
1SG (Join to see)
>1 y
I see some folks would rather their personal opinion be applied, rather than what the Army policy is with regard to shaving profiles for a medical condition or religious accommodation.
Your duty and responsibility is to enforce the Army standard, not enforce your personal standard or bias.
You are 100% permitted to enforce your level upon yourself, but the Army's standard is the one that applies to your Soldiers.
If the Army COS decided to change AR 670-1 to permit beards, it is likely nobody at our grade level would be consulted. Yet, if it were published, that would be the standard.
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1SG Retired
1SG (Join to see)
>1 y
SSgt (Join to see) - Shaving is different because it doesn't keep the Soldier from performing their duties. A Soldier with a shaving profile and beard groomed IAW AR 670-1, is meeting the standard.
If a Soldier with the shaving profile there are no less than 4 people who own that. The Soldier, and the Soldier's first, second, and third level NCO in the NCOSC.
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GySgt Team Chief
GySgt (Join to see)
9 mo
Not looking like a Soldier is even smaller. The majority of time spent the last two decades, CENTCOM, it’s cultural. Sure if they have a plain clothes mission then yeah not looking like it sure. A beard will get you farther than a shiny object on your collar in Afghanistan.
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SGT Roberto Mendoza-Diaz
SGT Roberto Mendoza-Diaz
1 mo
You are the only one here I agree with.
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