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Hair and military

May 16th, 2011

Traveling by train, I once more had my interest snagged by the issues of hair cuts.

Or maybe it was arriving at Ernst-von Bergman Kaserne and seeing the difference between US and Bundeswehr uniform hair regulations. The rules for head hair on male soldiers are esssentially the same. Facial hair does differ (Bundeswehr allows beards where the US obviously does not – except for certain people in the Navy and we simply are not going there.) Women’s hair is where you see country politics at their absolute best. Neat and well kept is the order of the day. The more senior women have either short hair, or when hair is long, it is pinned up neatly. Not so much with the younger women who sport various versions of pony tails; flowing freely even in field uniforms. And that is where I am so startled.

It didn’t take me overly long to learn that wearing my hair loose (or in pig tails that trailed down to my waist) was not going to pass muster in the US military of the 1970s. Especially near the end of the WAC era when many of the NCOs felt that their contribution to the Army was being seriously questioned or downgraded.

As it turned out, the new, all voluntary, US military would not have survived had it not been for the thousands of young women who flocked into its ranks. Finding in the military, like nowhere else in the US at that time, jobs where equal pay for equal work was a reality. Where base pay did not depend on being male or having a family. (leaving aside for the moment the challenges of getting interesting jobs and promotions). A PFC was a PFC. One with 2 years in rank got paid the same regardless of gender.

I got üast my initial embarrassment of not understanding the uniform regulations, learning to pin up my hair in uniform and some how the years have rolled by.

Now it is 2011 and I am just about over the culture shock after being out of theater for a couple of months of seeing men in uniform with a serious amount of hair on their heads. My mind does not automatically think – oh, there goes another 90 day reserve/national guard doc who is blowing off the hair regulations. I am no longer living in an environment where the impetus for close cropped hair or shaved heads has to do with limited water and a dislike for spending time in group showers and not with personal long term preferences.

I am home. I don’t have to put on a uniform any more. No one cares whether my hair is up or down, what color it is or how long. Must be why I still wear it pulled back, altho in a long tail or braid rather than giving me a head ache pinned to my head. It also just might be why I whacked off 40 cm this morning prior to going out the door to München. Not catching my braid all the time is a good thing.

München, Germany

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  1. Brad
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:26 | #1

    I will revisit my fling with facial hair I had during my 2 years in the Reserves doing pre-med.

    Will probably still shave the neck as it really starts to itch after about 4 days growth, but of course during my pilgrimage will let it all grow out, for that wild hermit look. :)

    I never trimmed it for the first year, and one day was eating an ice cream cone when all my chin hairs got caught up in my snack.

    Decided it was time for a trim.

    I am so envious of your freedom.

    It is hard for me to recall ever being so self-actualized and expressive.

    About time to be a grownup.

  2. Carmen
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:26 | #2

    I love train travel, but around here, no wi-fi, and it costs a lot in comparison.

    It has been a long time since I thought about hair very much. Mine has gotten shorter, too, because it was making me look Even Older.

    I hope the conference is enjoyable.

  3. Bruce
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:28 | #3

    For those of us who have served in your command and occasionally heard our Soldiers gripe, does this mean “Ding Dong, the witch is dead?”

    (Retired Fire Breathing Dragon, vacationing in Panama)

  4. Holly
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:28 | #4

    No – it means that she is no longer sitting on her hair – but still at serious risk of crabbiness and wire rim glasses!

  5. Ruth
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:29 | #5

    Wow…that a lot of hair you chopped off! Do we get to see pics soon?

  6. Mark
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:29 | #6

    I always liked to have to option of relaxed grooming standards. There are a number of times that I had to advice folks when flying commercial that they should look a little grubby: not shaving for a few days, longer hair, plain civvies etc. I always made certain that I had a letter from our commander, or a one star authorizing RGS. Twice, I had a couple a female intel folks attached as support, they got the message. The guys that were Rangers, Marines or non SF would be problematic.

  7. Helen
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:30 | #7

    Wel done! It is like being a kid with scissors and looking in the mirror…

  8. Holly
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:30 | #8

    Well – actually it was just like being a kid – with a mirror, scissors and a desire to do something before I chickened out!

  9. Diana
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:31 | #9

    Have you thought of donating it to “Locks of love”?

  10. Chere
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:33 | #10

    40 cm? Hmm, about 15 3/4″- yep, that’s firmly in catching-hair-in-the-back-of-desk-bolts country, which I remember with no fondness…and Locks of
    Love donation territory for that matter.

  11. Cin
    May 19th, 2011 at 15:34 | #11

    Love it. So true, right? I’d love to shave half my head and dye the remaining half blue…but we know where that would lead…. ;)
    Remember the contractors in uniform with the beards and long hair? Ugh!

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