» By TIFFANY HALL – firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent changes to the enforcement of military dress codes have caught the attention of both soldiers and civilians.
“Most of the uproar is coming from younger soldiers who are just starting out, but really, these rules have been in place,” said Master Sgt. Marcus Richardson.
Richardson, who has been in the Army for 23 years, said the rules that have gotten the attention of other soldiers are not new changes, just rules that until now have not been enforced.
Some of the issues Richardson spoke about include shorter sideburns, better grooming standards on and off duty, cosmetics for men, tattoos, piercings and the ironing of uniforms.
“All of the rules have a reason. There is something behind every rule, that’s why they are in place,” Richardson said.
One of the rules that has not been enforced is the rule of having shorter sideburns and cleaner facial hair. Both of these serve the purpose of letting gas masks seal properly.
“Let’s say that there was a troop walking into combat, and an enemy threw a gas bomb, having a longer beard or scraggly facial hair could prevent the gas mask from sealing,” said Alberto Fait, freshman and Army veteran.
Another issue is the ironing of the soldiers’ uniforms. The rule states there could be no commercial ironing, but only hand ironing.
Richardson rationalized the reason behind the rule is the uniforms are all weather resistant. Some of the chemicals and the amount of heat involved in commercial ironing could potentially damage the material and render the uniforms useless.
Another issue is no man would be allowed to wear any cosmetics. However, Richardson also said in the event of someone having a disfigurement or injured face, there could be an exception to the rule.
The biggest issue sparking attention is the tattoo changes –— which include no visible tattoos while in uniform — and no visible body piercings.
“I don’t see the issue. If you’re doing funeral detail, then yeah, cover them up. It can be viewed as disrespectful. However, if I was to do a funeral for a fallen brother who rides bikes for instance, it could be a form of respect,” said Ryan Waldorf, senior and Army veteran.
On the other end of the spectrum, Fait believes as long as the tattoos do not detract from the physical appearance of the soldier, it should not matter.
Waldorf and Fait both explained the army is a job, regardless of the reason for signing up.
“Really, I believe that the rules are being put into place to cut back on budgets,” Waldorf said.
Fait believes the Army is enforcing the old rules in order to weed out soldiers. He also said if a sudden war broke out and soldiers were needed, they would throw the rules out.
Richardson said when the Army needed soldiers, the requirements for getting recruited were limited.
Richardson also mentioned, in the past, criminals were sometimes given the option to go to jail or join the Army. Now the Army has a surplus of soldiers, and enlistment is completely voluntary, so there are stricter requirements.
“What it all boils down to is that the older generation wants to see professionalism in the Army,” Richardson said. TAS