Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Army Needs To Grow A Pair Already And Say No To Beards
At the beginning of 2017, the U.S. Army changed regulations to allow Sikh soldiers to grow beards under a religious exemption to male grooming standards. The surprise decision naturally inspired some service members to wonder, “If a small group can get an exception to the rules and grow beards because of their deeply held religious beliefs, why can’t I grow one because I think it looks badass?”
The Army has since vacillated on the question. After a spokesman for the assistant secretary of the Army – Manpower & Reserve Affairs told Task & Purpose beards were officially off the table in November, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey insisted that the new Army Secretary Mark Esper had not yet made a decision.
Let’s make this easy for Army brass: As long as you’re considering allowing any old soldier to look like Grizzly Adams, you may as well look at allowing dental grills, earrings for men, and nose rings. Hell, mullets will eventually come back into style. Why not authorize those, too? As long as we’re just accommodating the fashion trends of the moment, why the hell not?
U.S. Marine Corps photo
I know, I know: What about the members of America’s special operations forces? Even the odd civilian who slept through Zero Dark Thirty or Lone Survivor is obsessed with commandos’ flamboyant whiskers that signal not only their experience, but their superiority over the baby-faced infantry.
While I have nothing but respect for the special operations community, they’re the ones who started this God-awful phenomenon we find ourselves in the midst of, something I call “peak beard.” This is one of many TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) that need to be left behind in-country, along with burn pits and masturbating in porta-potties.
Not that long ago, a beard marked a wearer as either a member of a southern rock band or someone with a deep desire to appear eccentric. Then 9/11 happened, and American special operators deployed to central Asia and the Middle East in unprecedented numbers. The rapid successes of those unconventional forces, especially in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, made them heroes — and, eventually, fashion icons. Pretty soon, the beard became part of the “veterans’ uniform,” along with a well-worn, vaguely vintage baseball cap and an obnoxious t-shirt. At this point, the only thing separating some vets from hipsters is wearing cargo pants instead of skinny jeans.
Now, even civilians try to pull off the look, praying that a particularly aggressive crumb catcher will make up for their lack of upper body strength and hard-on for wanton violence. But unfortunately, as guys like Seb Gorka have found, merely possessing enough testosterone to grow facial hair does not make you an alpha male. The ubiquity of scraggly beards among embarrassing keyboard warriors has only sullied the hallowed relationship between real operators and their prized fanny dusters.
Some of you have undoubtedly asked yourselves the question, “Would I look good with a beard?” If you actually have to ponder that question, the answer is no. There are generally two groups of men who look better with beards: those who’ve had disfiguring facial injuries and U.S. presidents named Abraham.
I’m not talking about a few days stubble from a shave vacation on a weekend or leave: that’s just expediency with a hint of laziness, not a trendy facial exploration. Besides, a neatly trimmed beard is way more work than just shaving. That’s what any possible change to the rules would ultimately mandate with its change to beard regs; high standards in grooming are part of military discipline. Sorry, but your dreams of going full-on ZZ Top just aren’t going to happen, no matter how hard you pray. Hardly worth it, really.
Yes, shaving is a little arbitrary, save for some exaggerated concerns over CBRN, but it is part of what makes the military the military. Creased trousers are arbitrary. Short hair is arbitrary. Lots of things in the military are arbitrary, but for the fact that consistency and uniformity are part of military life. Those who take care of the little things also take care of the big things.
Is there room for things to change? Yes. Military grooming and uniform standards do change with the times: We don’t wear dress uniforms or ties into battle anymore, we don’t have huge mustaches and sideburns like Civil War generals, and unfortunately, we don’t get to rock cocked covers and a full head of hair slicked back with Brylcreem while single-handedly mowing down German troops with a machine gun like Audie Murphy.
Maybe the day for bringing beards back will come. But it needs to come because the society and the military have actually changed, not just because every teenager who saw ZDT thinks that room-clearing while cosplaying Duck Dynasty makes war look awesome. If in 10 years, we have become a fully, or, uh, at least half, bearded society, it will be time to change. But if, we look at this era of peak beard with the same ridicule with which we now look upon mullets and pegged jeans, then we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief we didn’t abandon our military standards in a moment of weakness.
Two Air Force pararescue Airmen were awarded the Silver Star Medal on Friday for saving dozens of lives during separate Afghan battles in 2018 and 2019.
Tech Sgt. Gavin Fisher and Staff Sgt. Daniel Swensen both received the third highest military award for their bravery. Fisher also received the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government covertly moved to expel two officials from the Chinese embassy earlier this year, after they drove onto a military base, the New York Times reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.
The newspaper reported on Sunday that one of the two Chinese officials is believed to be an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover.
The Chinese officials breached security at a base in Virginia this fall, and only stopped driving after fire trucks were used to block their path, the Times said.
Trump set to announce he's withdrawing 4,000 troops from Afghanistan amid troubled peace talks with Taliban
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
President Donald Trump is set to announce the withdrawal of roughly 4,000 US troops from Afghanistan as early as next week, NBC News reported on Saturday based on conversations with three current and former officials.
This would come as the US is engaged in ongoing, troubled peace talks with the Taliban. The talks resumed in early December after Trump abruptly scrapped negotiations with the Taliban in September, only to be paused again this week after an attack near Bagram Airfield on Wednesday.
Thomas Hoke can still recall the weather in December 1944, and the long days that followed.
The battle started on Dec. 16, but his company arrived Dec. 27 and would stay there until the battle's end, nearly a month later. By the time he arrived, snow had blanketed Germany in what was one of the biggest storms the country had seen in years.
"It was 20 below and a heavy fog encompassed the whole area," Hoke, 96, recalled from his Emmitsburg home.
The fog was to Germany's advantage because Allied aircraft were grounded, including recognizance flights, allowing the Nazis to slip in.
West Point is investigating a hand gesture made by several cadets and midshipmen during an ESPN pre-game broadcast at the Army-Navy game Saturday after clips of the signals went viral because of their association with white power.
"West Point is looking into the matter," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "At this time we do not know the intent of the cadets."