Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

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March 30, 2011 at 2:00pm

Moustache March on McChord Field

Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, left, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, participates in the first ever Mustache March during the Vietnam War in 1965. General Olds is noted as the pioneer and creator of the month-long tradition which is still practiced and celeb

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.  -- Have you noticed a shocking number of mustaches lately? Airmen and civilians across McChord Field are participating in the month-long Mustache March tradition, which can be traced through Air Force history back to the days of the Vietnam War.

Mustache March originated in 1965 when Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, grew what he referred to as a "bulletproof mustache." At the time, mustaches weren't authorized in the military, let alone the eccentric handlebar mustache worn by the commander. General Olds, who was far from home on a military base in Southeast Asia, thought the facial hair defined his individuality and brought him good luck, so he kept it and displayed it proudly. 

When General Olds returned to the states a month later, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. McConnell, who was not fond of Olds' defiance, greeted him. General McConnell approached him, stuck a finger under his nose and ordered him to remove it immediately. General Olds replied, "Yes, sir." 

"To tell the truth, I wasn't all that fond of the [mustache], but it had become a symbol for the men of the 8th Wing," said General Olds. "I knew General McConnell understood. During his visits over the past year, he had never referred to my breach of military standards; he just seemed rather amused at the variety of facial hair sported by the troops. It was the most direct order I had received in twenty-four years of service."

Thus, the roots of Mustache March were born. Airmen and retirees Air Force wide now devote one month of mustache maintenance a year as a fun tradition, and to pay to tribute to the late General Olds, who passed away in 2007. 

Since the Vietnam era, the Air Force has established regulations and guidelines for the proper wear and upkeep of a mustache. According to article 17.5.2.2 of the Air Force Professional Development Guide, "mustaches, if worn, will not extend downward beyond the lip line of the upper lip or extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from the corners of the mouth." 

As the end of March 2011 approaches, Airmen can take the next year to read about General Olds and practice good Air Force facial hair etiquette in preparation for next Mustache March. 

(Airforcetimes.com and Airforce-magazine.com contributed to this report.)    

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