Perception is everything

Los Angeles Air Force Base -- I arrived at Los Angeles Air Force Base in late August and currently hold the distinction of First Sergeant for the 61st Medical Group. Huah! My transition was flawless with the help of some great senior noncommissioned officers from my unit, the Air Base Wing, and, of course, Space and Missile Systems Center. For their selfless efforts and care, my family and I thank you. Needless to say, my first impression of Los Angeles AFB was a great one. I thought, "Wow, everyone is so helpful." 

The following week, I went to the installation barber shop and noticed a young officer walk in while I was in the chair. His hair looked as if he hadn't been there in months but I figured he was in the right place. When it came time for him to get his hair cut he pulled his blouse off to reveal a black T-shirt with a lot of unauthorized print on it. I didn't feel that counseling him on the spot would be too appropriate at a barber chair but my perception right then had changed dramatically and I started to wonder if all the stories about the old "Air Station" were true. 

I'm happy to report that the stories I heard before I got here were far from the truth; in fact the past is just that - the past. However, I have noticed several infractions with personnel ranging from hair to back packs and badges to cell phone usage. My point is this. In today's uncertain world with the war on terrorism in our hearts and minds, perception is more vital than ever. We all must display the professionalism that is expected of us all and hold each other accountable for our actions. Remember, the world is watching. 

This week, I will focus on personal hair grooming standards. Maintaining this standard is a simple one but seems to be the first thing noticed if left undone. AFI 36-2903, Table 1.5, dated Aug. 2, 2006, is the source document for these standards. For both men and women, hair will be clean, well groomed and neat. Hair will not contain excessive amounts of grooming aids or touch eyebrows. Hair color must be natural looking and can be highlighted or frosted as long as it remains conservative, not faddish.
Men's hair styles will have a tapered appearance on both sides and back, both with and without head gear. The block cut is permitted with a tapered appearance. Clean shaven heads, military high-and-tight or flat tops are authorized. Hair styles will not be worn in extreme or fad style or in such a way that exceeds length or bulk of 1-¼ inches. Length will not exceed ¼ inch at the natural termination point. Sideburns; if worn, must be neatly trimmed and tapered and will also will be straight and of even width (not flared) and end in a clean-shaven horizontal line. Sideburns will not extend below the lowest part of the exterior ear opening. In other words, "Elvis has left the building." 

Women's hairstyles must be styled to present a professional appearance. Hair pins and bands must match hair color. Long hair will be secured with no loose ends (no rooster tail). Bangs, if worn, will not touch the eyebrows. Hair will not extend below any side of an invisible line drawn parallel to the ground at the bottom edge of the shirt collar regardless of length. Hair will not include hair ornaments such as ribbons, beads, jeweled pins or hair scrunchy. Minimum length and bulk required is 1 inch, not to exceed 3 inches, in bulk and will not prevent the proper wear of head gear, including helmet or chemical mask. 

As earlier stated, perception is everything. A member that cares nothing about their appearance gives the perception that they may not care about their job or themselves. With society's apparent lack of support for the war on terror, the worst thing we can do as Air Force members is to give the impression that we are sloppy. First impressions are indeed lasting ones and we get few chances to make the right one. These small, yet important details are one small way we as Air Force members can display our pride in ourselves as well as our profession.