RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — It’s likely that mustachioed airmen will be an uncommon sight starting Tuesday, one day after the Air Force’s Mustache March contest ends.
This year, airmen up and down the ranks took up a challenge from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III to flex some “hairpower,” but the mustache still seems to have few fans in the Air Force.
Airmen at Ramstein sporting upper-lip facial hair for the contest said Monday that they couldn’t wait to shave.
“I do not like having a mustache,” said Airman 1st Class Ronald Gill, 24, of the 86th Communications Squadron. “Now if the Air Force would let me grow a goatee, I really like a goatee. But just a mustache by itself, I don’t like the way it makes me look and I don’t like the way it feels.”
An annual Air Force tradition to foster camaraderie, Mustache March harks back to legendary pilot Robin Olds, who grew a handlebar mustache — against the Air Force’s grooming regulations — while flying combat missions in Vietnam.
Airmen participating in the contest, however, aren’t allowed to grow a mustache similar to Olds’; some say the conservative grooming standards, which don’t allow for hair extending down past the lip line, make for a sinister visage.
“I do (get strange looks),” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Goins, 32, a mental health technician from RAF Lakenheath in England, on temporary duty at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. “They call me a creep show; they tell me to cut it off.”
His buddy, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Becker, 26, also a mental health technician on temporary duty from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., joked: “They don’t allow me around playgrounds, they don’t let me around schools.”
Becker started growing his trim, but thick, mustache in February.
“Make sure you put that in your notebook — he cheated,” Goins said to a reporter.
“I did not cheat. I prepared,” Becker said. “It’s called ‘Furry February.’ ”
But Becker said his work of the last two months would soon come off.
“I’m just trying to enjoy it before I go see my wife again,” he said, “because it’s going to be gone. I have to go buy a beard trimmer. You can’t just go in there with one razor, un-uh.”
Welsh is expected to pick an overall Air Force Mustache March winner, nominated from major commands, this week.
The winning ’stache at Ramstein belongs to Maj. Dennis Hamilton, 41, of the 86th Airlift Wing headquarters. He was a crowd favorite Monday at the Ramstein Officers’ Club, where airmen chosen by their units as having the best mustache stood on stage, the overall winner determined by the loudest applause.
Hamilton was proud of his bushy tuft.
“I think, you know, the mustache has a mind of its own,” he said. “Sometimes it might do things that are outside of my control, so that’s my excuse; if anything ever goes wrong, I can blame it on the mustache.”