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NEWS | March 14, 2013

Hey, there’s some dirt on your lip!

By Master Sgt. Brett Hopkins 437th Operations Support Squadron First Sergeant

Yes, I too hear this howl from my compadres in the Operations Support Squadron ... but it is Moustache March! I've heard Airmen opine that it is a practice attached to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball's "March Madness." They would be wrong. Many Airmen throughout the world observe Moustache March and have for decades for one simple reason: tradition.

Tradition is something that develops over time, is practiced by a community and is known to help bond those community members to each other. I say the best way to strengthen our social Comprehensive Airman's Fitness pillar is to partake in and admire the glorious moustaches that develop throughout the month. But why did Moustache March start in the Air Force?

Moustache March has its roots in our service's flying heritage. The late Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, a three-time ace, started the tradition. He began growing an outrageous moustache during the Vietnam War that he would keep meticulously waxed. He was protesting what he felt were unfair facial hair regulations that flew in the face of individuality. His moustache was big, audacious and out of regulations, but more importantly a symbol to the men of the 8th Fighter Wing. The "Wolf of Kunsan" is honored each year by Airmen who participate in Moustache March.

The challenge with this and many other traditions is to preserve them without losing our professionalism. Those familiar with the entire story know Olds was eventually told by Gen. McConnell to "take it off" and he happily complied.

There used to be a tradition of inappropriate joking and unprofessional behavior in our Air Force as well, but the profession-of-arms requires us to move beyond those ancient traditions to newer traditions of dignity, respect and trust.

This is why I still partake in Moustache March, with the understanding that I must assure the glorious moustache I am trying to nurture is "in regs." That's also why I challenge each Airman to be a watchdog every day in both protecting our treasured traditions and not allowing our more inappropriate ones to creep back in a little at a time. Bad traditions can't be forgotten with the wave of a hand, but take vigilance and determination. Luckily, good traditions can't be easily forgotten either. So to my Wingmen in the OSS, my lovely wife, and my brothers and sister-in-arms I say, "Hey, that's not dirt, it is tradition ... and you can't just wipe that away!"