On the heels of last week’s (relatively) successful resolution in Libya, President Obama’s announcement on Sunday that all troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year signifies the beginning of what is likely to be the steepest drop in active service men and women in recent US history.

And the perfect time, according to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler, to tighten up grooming standards.

“I believe that we can better visualize to the American people and the Army what it means to be an American soldier than we’re doing now,” Chandler told Army Times. “Those can be done through personal grooming standards and standards of appearance and the uniforms we wear and how we choose to wear them. I think we can do better. Now’s the time to take a look at it.”

How high and tight is the Sergeant Major looking to go?

barcodevia Wired

Eliminate visible tattoos on the neck and hands, require all men to maintain “military” (buzzed) haircuts, cut the French-tipped fingernails and lose all earrings.

Because the Army failed to meet its recruiting goals for much of the last decade, it was forced to accept larger percentages of recruits who either did not graduate from high school, failed the Armed Forces Qualification Test, required a waiver for past criminal activity or did not comply with the Army’s strict grooming policy.

According to Maj. Andy Entwistle (ret.), tightening the grooming regulations now would be a mistake.

“I served on active duty in Recruiting Command (as a Battalion XO) from 2001 to 2007, a time of major change for the grooming regulations. I made the news when I denied entry to a young man with a sleeve tattoo in 2001. Then times got tough. By the time I left, we were allowing tattoos to show on the hands and above the collar, and sleeves were no issue at all. And the Army survived. If we loosen the tattoo and grooming standards for heavy war, and tighten them again as things quiet, what message are we sending? That a kid with a tattoo who is willing to risk dying is good enough for us only when we need numbers? It sure looks that way. America tattoos itself. The Army needs to stay in step.” (via Army Times)

Chandler has made it clear that no changes to the grooming policy have been made yet, and that all recommendations must go through Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

“I would assume there are going to be some changes,” he said. “Exactly what they are it’s too early to tell.”

If you ask Capt. Richard Telesco of Fort Lewis, Washington, “It is about dang time. I am so sick of seeing guys with neck and hand tattoos. We used to have some standards and look professional but now every time I take my soldiers out for PT it looks like a biker gang is running with me.”

We come down somewhere in the middle. To adjust grooming standards in wartime when soldiers are at most risk (particularly those in the Army) seems tacky at best. That said, we put our troops on a pedestal for a reason: Just as professional athletes are expected to represent their fans on the road, so too should US armed forces represent the citizens they’re paid to protect.

Perhaps an adoption of the Steinbrenner Look is in order…

—C.B.S.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • C. Brian Smith