Mustache March grows at Keesler

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Keesler is an environment bristling with pride, even if that sometimes means looking cheesy or ridiculous.

In the good-humored name of tradition and camaraderie, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III has challenged Airmen across all major commands to sport a mustache in celebration of "Mustache March."

"Whenever someone challenges me, I have to accept," said Chief Master Sgt. Farrell Thomas, 81st Training Wing command chief. "But my kids can't wait until I shave it off."

While the facial hair tradition was started by an out-of-regulations pilot from the Vietnam War, Airmen must comply with the standards of Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Appearance.

Mustaches cannot be overly bushy or animated, and there is certainly no chance of emulating the handlebar mustache worn by Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, the fighter pilot that is credited with the tradition.

"I always forget to start growing mine," said Senior Airman James Lewis, 81st Diagnostics and Therapeutics Squadron medical technician. "But this February I started to get really excited for March. I might even keep my mustache until next April."

Keeping the facial hair beyond March is a rare sentiment for Keesler Airmen, but many felt compelled to participate.

"Absolutely," said Col. Michael Bashford, 81st Surgical Operations Squadron commander. "This is actually the first year I've participated -- the first time I've ever grown out my mustache even. Some people have said they can't take me seriously with it."

Mustaches have been met with laughter and distain, though it's all in good fun.

"I believe the only comment I got was, 'Ugh,'" said Brig. Gen. Kory Cornum, 81st Medical Group commander, in regard to his family's response. "But, it's just a fun thing for everyone to do."

The competition may or may not be worth looking ridiculous, but there is a mustache somewhere that will earn esteem from the chief of staff.

"We'll find our Air Force winner and I'll figure out a way to honor him," Welsh said during his Feb. 20, address to the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium.

The Air Force-wide winner will eventually be chosen from nominees submitted by each MAJCOM.