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News > Commentary - Mustache Madness down to the wire
Mustache Madness down to the wire

Posted 3/30/2009   Updated 3/30/2009 Email story   Print story


Commentary by 1st Lt. Elizabeth McLean
387th Air Expeditionary Group

3/30/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Mustache March originated during the Vietnam War when a fighter pilot named Robin Olds grew what he called a "bulletproof mustache." At the time mustaches weren't allowed to be sported in the military, but Olds, who was far from home on a military base in Vietnam, thought the mustache defined his individuality, so he kept it. This occurred in the month of March 1965. Thus the roots of Mustache March were born. Since then Air Force pilots have devoted one month of defiance of the Air Force facial hair regulations as a way of good-natured protest, and pay to tribute to General Robin Olds. Once Olds returned home in April, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. McConnell, who wasn't fond of Olds's defiance, greeted him. McConnell walked up to him, stuck a finger under his nose and ordered, "Take it off." Olds replied, "Yes, sir."

There comes a time in life, when fierce competition is not just the name of the game....but is the daily lifestyle of which everyone must participate. At the 387th Air Expeditionary Group, the Mustache Madness competition has raised a heightened level of drive and ambition. As Muhammad Ali once said, "Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision." For 387th personnel, March 1st kicked off a fierce challenge between 466 individuals all hoping to make their way to the end of the month with a mental picture of facial hair victory in sight. 

Led by the 387th AEG commander, Col. John Sullivan, men (and women if they so opted) were put to the test to see who could not just grow a mustache, but who could grow a mustache in one of four specific categories. 

"As we began a new AEF rotation with all new personnel, I saw March Mustache Madness (MMM) as a fun way to honor an Air Force tradition and build camaraderie with in the unit," said Colonel Sullivan. "I fully expect that on April 1, I too, like Gen. McConnell, will be walking around telling my Airmen to shave, but also like Gen. Olds, my upper lip will be hairless once again... at least until next March." 

At the start of the month, myself along with 1st Lt. Jaymie Stepanek and Tech. Sgt. Stacy Boos all set forth to judge and inspire growth amongst the forces. The categories included "The Chester" for the creepiest looking mustache, "The Celebrity" for the mustache that allowed the individual to most resemble someone famous (aka Tom Selleck), "The Superstache" for the person with the most boisterous and out of control 'stache, and "The Peach Fuzz" for the person who was trying with all their heart, but really didn't have any growth. 

At the bi-monthly staff meeting, the half-way point of the competition led competitors to not only self-reflect on their progress, but gauge their level of competition with others in the room; sparking a dedicated sprint to the finish. As Colonel Sullivan made every effort to gauge the progress of his Airmen, he and his trusty sidekick, Chief Master Sgt. David Niehaus, carefully scrutinized their rivals at every security forces checkpoint, the DFAC, the flight line, across the acreage of the base and also across their peers at the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing staff; slackers did not stand a chance against these contenders. For those not contending, the competition has evoked feelings on a scale of emotions. 

"I am glad that Mustache March is finally coming to a close" said 1st Lt. Krystal Duarte, executive officer for the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron. "I am a true believer that some men should not grow facial hair... this year really has topped them all." 

While a decent percentage of multi-force personnel have been able to withstand the intensity of the "face-off," there have been a few who have not quite made it to the end. The fears of spouses viewing the growths via webcam on skype, or the fact that an R&R tour was near approaching, kept some of the true competitors at bay. Lt. Col. Michael Geer, 387th AEG deputy commander is "broken hearted and defeated" over the entire ordeal, emphasizing that mustaches are "itchy, make it tough to apply sunscreen, sweaty, touch the rim of your cup when you are drinking," and admitted to the fact that in the end, "there is only one Tom Selleck." 

With only a few days left in the competition, it is coming down to the final wire as to who will take home victory. The scrutinizing of who simply looks disturbing or fantastic in their mustache has been taken out of the final judging consideration ... .now it is just up to the true warriors to fight to the finish and go for the gold. Until next year, contenders must grow now, or forever hold their peace.

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