Air Force allows commanders to relax hair and fitness standards in response to COVID-19

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Air Force haircut

Ana Zavela, a barber at the base exchange, gives an airman a haircut, Jan. 24, 2014.

The Air Force is letting individual commanders deviate from grooming and fitness standards in response to the COVID-19 crisis, though shaving standards will remain in place, the Air Force announced in a memo on Tuesday.

“[W]e realize that our current situation requires us all to socially distance and adopt health practices that may limit access to barbershops and hair salons,” wrote Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, in a letter to service members that was shared on the popular Facebook group Air Force amn/nco/snco. An Air Force spokesperson confirmed the letter for Task & Purpose.

“As such, in these rare circumstances Commanders have the authority to deviate from hair grooming standards as needed to ensure the health and safety of our service members and families,” Kelly said.

Still, the lieutenant general cautioned that any deviation “should be done within reason and should in no way inhibit our ability to perform our duties,” wear proper uniforms or use protective or safety equipment.

Earlier this month, the Air Force pushed back its spring physical fitness tests by six months, and Kelly took the policy a step further on Monday by giving commanders authority to deviate from fitness standards for airmen “who are not otherwise under a medical profile [and] are unable to maintain fitness standards due to safety or other restrictions,” he wrote.

“[W]e realize our current situation requires us all to socially distance and adopt health practices that may limit access to fitness centers,” the lieutenant general explained earlier in the letter.

Again, Kelly advised that such deviation should be done within reason and should not inhibit Air Force duties.

“In uncertain times it is even more important that our Air and Space professionals are able to provide a sense of stability and professionalism,” he wrote. “We count on commanders to find the appropriate balance and maintain our place within the profession of arms as we carry out our duty to the American public.”