Shaving for Uncle Sam.
September 13, 2002 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Shaving for Uncle Sam. Stories like this just heat my blood. I swear that some people cannot see past their stars at what is really going on. Is this becoming a Gentleman's War? Next thing you know Special Forces won't be able to carry bullets in their guns.
posted by Stretch (27 comments total)
It's good to see that Generals have not much changed since I got out in '92.
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 7:42 AM on September 13, 2002

So what is it that gets you so worked up, Stretch? The fact that the military is tellling them how to dress (not a surprise) or the fact that you think they won't be able to accomplish their mission as well in normal uniform?

Personally, I don't see all that much to boil your blood over here.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:44 AM on September 13, 2002

I don't quite see your point. It isn't as if these guys looked like locals even WITH the beards.

Whether or not this policy change is warranted or not, it always bothers me when people have a knee-jerk reaction to what they perceive in an article such as this. I would need a lot more detail about what these guys were actually up to, etc. before I could definitely say I thought the new orders were stupid. And there is something to be said for the view that security would be enhanced with the ability to tell who is who.

Life isn't cut-and-dry, and decisions aren't made in a vacuum. And while we are at it it is dangerous to get your perspectives from old MASH reruns.
posted by konolia at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2002

Stretch, care to clarify your point? Some generals decided things had got a little too lax and started enforcing basic dress code discipline in combat units. This is somehow analagous to not giving Special Forces bullets in their guns?
posted by mediareport at 7:59 AM on September 13, 2002

No, it's a bit different than that. Because of the training and job nature of special ops, they are usually allowed more lattitute in their appearance. It's actually a source of pride and something that helps them to stand out from the regular army. I think there'll be a bit of backlash against this. Special Ops have always been treated different, because the job they do is different.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:07 AM on September 13, 2002

Don't fewer mental hospitals and churches get bombed in Gentlemens' Wars?
Seriously though--I'm surprised this is even news.
posted by Fabulon7 at 8:09 AM on September 13, 2002

I think Stretch is angry because now that the special forces soldiers wont fit in as well, they will be easier to snipe or pick off with an RPG.
posted by pemulis at 8:09 AM on September 13, 2002

Was this reason for your boiling: "Some reports have said that NGO workers were not happy with the special operations soldiers trying to fit in as it put those workers in danger. The official said that a slight consideration was given to that argument in the decision to return the soldiers to standard uniforms. "

Well, I'm sure the NGOs didn't appreciate being mistaken for soldiers. Maybe they should start wearing uniforms.
posted by ?! at 8:11 AM on September 13, 2002

Strech, I think there is a legitimate reason for the enforcing of dress codes here. I studied specops extensively in college, and understand your point about the latitude usually granted these men. However, the situation in Afghanistan for some of these men is greatly differing from a normal SpecOp mission. Their goal is to provide local security in Kabul now, defend the Pres and many high ranking Afghanis. Essentially, part of the SpecOps forces in Afghanistan are acting as if they were Secret Service, which I think is an important and laudable mission. Look at how Secret Service conducts itself: many of its agents are undercover, prowling through crowds and the like, but just as many if not more are HIGHLY VISIBLE. This is because visible force is a good deterent against violence.

Therefore, I imagine this article is slightly incorrect. Undboutedly, for intelligence gathering and other missions, there are still SpecOps people allowed to disregard normal uniform standards. However, for those with the important job of gaurding Afghanistan's leadership, there is a justifiable reason to be wearing a recognizable US uniform, the deterent effect.
posted by pjgulliver at 8:22 AM on September 13, 2002

Ok, I think an important part of the argument was left out of this article.

Being in military service, I can give you one very good reason to shave when on duty. The army ProMasks(gas mask) will not seal properly with facial hair. With the ever present threat of chemical attack on themselves and those they are guarding, shaving is a mere safety precaution. By being in uniform it won't look odd for someone to carry a gas mask either. If a normal guy was carrying a gas mask I'd think something was up, wouldn't you?

I just think that's more the reason for the shaving, not just to look pretty.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 8:31 AM on September 13, 2002

The Baptist's would agree . . .
posted by geekyguy at 8:33 AM on September 13, 2002

"Next thing you know Special Forces won't be able to carry bullets in their guns. "

I think Stretch just wanted to practice the fine art of non sequitur.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:41 AM on September 13, 2002

JakeEXTREME: I didn't know that about as masks. What do they do about black guys with pseudofolliculitis barbae who have a medical reason that they need to grow beards? (I know the armed forces give them a special dispensation to grow beards for that reason, but how does this fit in with the gas mask problem?)
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:46 AM on September 13, 2002

hahah. cnn will "buy" anything.
the beaut of this- Who is gonna know, who is gonna see. The General? he's SF right, he's laughing his butt off. do you think they will shave.
this is the king of all army barbershop stories. gas mask in deed. look at the SF in the pict from the link. a gas mask will fit over that face. (beard trimmed underneth, thinned out)
posted by clavdivs at 8:49 AM on September 13, 2002

There is also the issue of international treaties governing combatants that calls for all official combatants to be clearly identified as such through uniforms, insignia, etc. This was one of the arguments the US used to circumvent the Geneva Convention rules regarding POWs: when the US took Taliban fighters and shoved them down a dark hole, they argued they could do so because the Taliban were not official combatants, since they did not have uniforms, and thus did not fall under the strictures of the Geneva Convention. Perhaps the American generals don't want that same logic to be used on any US soldiers when they are caught bombing wedding parties or killing Canadians.
posted by mapalm at 8:53 AM on September 13, 2002

geekguy, the tribe(13 in all) Jesus came from tells you his appearance, not the baptist, or a painting from Rome, that is fundamentalism.

General Patton who was a great warrior had long hair as a child. He came from a military family too, yet at the time the way to protect a little one's head was with long hair. I wish I could find the photo of him, Patton with his long blond hair, and then you add his voice, oh my.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:18 AM on September 13, 2002

It reads like disinformation or other shenanigans to me. It's not exactly the most earthshaking material, yet it has a front page link on
posted by Foosnark at 9:21 AM on September 13, 2002

I don't know, I think it's kind of cool that they'd assimilate like that. Isn't the CIA being criticized for not having men in the field and relying too much on electronic gizmos?
posted by mogwai at 9:24 AM on September 13, 2002

disinformation and Special Ops go together like Oreos and a tall glass of cold milk.

Of course I am so cynical re news organizations that I don't really put too much credence in anything they say about anybody.
posted by konolia at 9:26 AM on September 13, 2002

Shaving for Uncle Sam.

This is a tradition, kinda, remember how people got Clean for Gene. Different circumstances, but hey if you truly believe in a cause, facial hair is always the first casualty.
posted by jonmc at 9:31 AM on September 13, 2002

If you've ever spent an entire day bustin' your ass in a dustbowl trying to get a comm link up, only to have some asshole colonel stop you and ask why your shoes are dirty, then the surprise is that uniform regs were allowed to slip as far as they have.

Which is to say, people who don't know shit about anything else know lots about how to look good in a uniform.
posted by norm29 at 9:39 AM on September 13, 2002

good take norm29.

clav meme for friday.

when uncle was P.O.W. in germany, the OIC of americans was, the ace Gabreski (sic sp). He came up to my uncle and said:

"son your pants are a mess"
to which he replied.
"sir, I'm lucky to have pants"

Col. G was going to court marshall him after the war.
he had a list of 600 names of men who were insubordinate. Uncle told me that some General (perhaps Hap) told to get the fuck outta his office when G presented the list.

even heros can go to far.
posted by clavdivs at 10:03 AM on September 13, 2002

I'm ex-SOF. It's not really about the beards. It's about some puke in the Pentagon telling operators in a warzone what to do. Instead of worrying about their beards, the guy should be worrying about what their needs are.
posted by Zombie at 10:04 AM on September 13, 2002

Seriously though--I'm surprised this is even news.

Oh, I don't know--Giuliani's recent switch from comb-over to comb-straight-back got 6 columns in the Washington Post, complete with before-and-after pics...
posted by Raya at 10:19 AM on September 13, 2002

mapalm: Don't be obtuse. They don't have to be in full uniform. That's why they're in partial uniform. They have insignia, they have dog tags, they have other items that clearly identify them, if necessary, as soldiers in an organized command structure.

Also, it has nothing to do with the forces providing security for Karzai, it has everything to do with the guys who are still poking around Afghan hill country looking for assholes like Hekmatyar ("perhaps the only prime minister in history to shell his own capital"). This particular issue has actually been brewing for weeks.
posted by dhartung at 1:38 PM on September 13, 2002

Hey, dhartung: please, guy, lay off the name calling. Don't be "obtuse?" Don't be a 4th grader.

And how do you know what insignia, etc., these guys are wearing? Your definition of "full uniform" seems a bit subjective: I imagine there were plenty of Taliban who argued they were in "partial" uniform, too.
posted by mapalm at 3:03 PM on September 13, 2002

"What do they do about black guys with pseudofolliculitis barbae..."

FYI/FWIW -- don't think it's limited to black men.
posted by davidmsc at 6:25 PM on September 13, 2002

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