GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --
As an outcome of the 101st Air Force uniform board, Air Force women, including those at the 434th Air Refueling Wing, have begun implementing the new regulations.
While many have heard of those new regulations, few have heard from the females affected and what those changes mean for them.
Women are now able to wear their hair in up to two braids or a single ponytail with bulk not exceeding the width of the head and length not extending below a horizontal line running between the top of each sleeve inseam at the underarm through the shoulder blades. In addition, women’s bangs may now touch their eyebrows, but not cover their eyes.
“In the past I used to deal with headaches, hair breakage and even rashes from having my hair pulled so tight,” said 2nd Lt. Julia Person, 434th Operations Support Squadron intelligence officer. “The new standards have already significantly helped with some of those issues.”
The Air Force uniform board met in November 2020 to discuss ideas sourced from Airmen across the Air Force who participated in a dress and appearance crowdsourcing campaign. Participants on the board included 19 diverse Airmen of various ranks from across the major commands and headquarters directorates.
The board reviewed all ideas including a recommendation from the Air Force’s Women’s Initiative Team. Thousands of women across the Air Force provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team, stating constraints to hair grooming standards resulted in damage to hair, migraines and in some cases, hair loss.
In addition to addressing issues associated with personal health and hair loss, adjusting female hair standards supports ongoing efforts to address diversity and inclusion in the ranks.
“It’s so much easier to maintain our hair now,” said Person, a biracial female. “In the past I would spend so much time ensuring my hair met the standards especially when we were in a deployed environment or conducting training.”
Those changes are also affecting females who work on the flight line and other industrial areas.
“We are not allowed to wear bobby pins in our hair while working on the flight line, but with the new regulations we have other alternatives,” said Tech Sgt. Sara Becker, 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist. “In the past some (woman) would keep our hair short to stay in compliance with the regulations, and now we don’t have to do that.”
Becker, who also stated that she experienced headaches from the old regulations now has the option of growing her hair out again.
“I wish I hadn’t cut my hair now that the regulations changed,” she said. “But I’m glad the changes were made and more options are available.”
Members must adhere to current occupational safety, fire and health guidance, and mishap prevention procedures emphasizing when and how to mitigate the potential for injury from hair of varying lengths around machinery, equipment, power transmission apparatus or moving parts. Airmen are encouraged to reach out to their safety office for assistance in analyzing any potential hazards, as applicable.
The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.
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