Posted on Mar 25, 2015
2d Lt Space Operations 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: 127
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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SSgt Tye Keppler
SSgt Tye Keppler
>1 y
I agree %100 percent. Although the crease reference and shiny boots no longer applies, the content of the message does. Also, if the gas mask seal were truly the issue, our special forces troops wouldn't have beards in theatre. They are in harms way more than most troops, yet don't have to adhere to the same standards.
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MSgt Aircrew Flight Equipment
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3 y
I think the issue is I have spent many a deployments having Senior NCOs more concerned about the socks I wear or if my reflective belt is worn correctly and less concerned about the morale and welfare of the people. True there should be discipline and consistency but let's have that were needed and that is on the job and when addressing each other. Growing a beard while at home station I think would be a great morale booster because I can speak for many people I know when they come back from deployment and are on downtime the first thing they do is grow a beard of some type. Why not let them keep it unless their specific job prevents it for safety reasons?
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PO3 Energy Specialist
PO3 (Join to see)
>1 y
There are other reasons for a good seal besides gas masks. OBA for firefighting is one you don't want to forget about.
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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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LCDR Chaplain
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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 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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Cpl Tony Anderson
Cpl Tony Anderson
>1 y
If you want a beard fine then turn in your gas mask but i would never let any one be exempt from chemical warfare because of it ....I would never give warning before going to the gas chamber an the requirements on being in the chamber don't change..... So go ahead grow a beard an one more thing if for some chance lack of gas mask was the cause of death in any situation then no benefits to be paid....just my opinion
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SrA Edward Vong
SrA Edward Vong
>1 y
I'm personally against conforming to standards as long as it doesn't hurt anyone.
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SSG Curtis Hawks
SSG Curtis Hawks
3 y
I agree. I deployed twice with 2/19 SFG. 18 series are the real McCoy's. The need to blend is essential. Their jobs are quite different than conventional military. Now I grow my beard and always have as a civilian, but as a soldier I was high and tight and only grew my stache while deployed. Keep it clean.
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SSG Medical Platoon Sergeant
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☝️this
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