JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. –
During my junior year at Virginia Tech, an Air Force lieutenant colonel gave me his personal expectation of females in his military.
He said to me, "Our female Airmen are examples of every military member. With their hair perfectly pinned back, without a single strand of it misplaced, they showcase our military with each step they take."
While I myself was not in the military at the time, that lieutenant colonel's words continued to stick with me. At the moment I had thought, "How could this man, a man, know more about a female's hair than I could? I mean, I am female."
It wasn't until I actually joined the military that I began to realize what this man was talking about.
A few years later at Air Force Basic Military Training, I had a similar discussion about female military members and their hair with my Military Training Instructor. She informed her flight, however less eloquently-stated, of her opinion regarding how a female should fix her hair when in the military.
"You better believe when I was deployed and wearing a helmet all day, that when I came home at night and took off my gear that my hair was still on point! If it took three or four hands full of gel every morning to get my stuff to lie flat, you better believe I did it!"
Why would my MTI care that much about hair? If she were wearing a helmet, no one would see her mess anyway, so why bother? Moreover, why would she make that much of a point to tell her flight about her hair - of all things?
Her reason, I've found, was the same as that lieutenant colonel's.
No matter what, military members are always on parade. The longest-lasting and most-important impression service members make is how we carry ourselves.
First impressions are so much of an important factor, there's even an entire Air Force Instruction discussing, in finely-printed detail, the rules and regulations regarding every aspect of an Air Force member's outward dress and personal appearance.
For me, the most important of these impression factors is how I fix my hair. Taking what that lieutenant colonel and my MTI have told me to heart, I refuse to think about my hair bun in a negative manner. Instead, I choose to think of my hair bun as a personification of myself; a facet of how I wish to be perceived, which is securely and ever-so gracefully adorned to the back of my head.
In uniform, I try my best to resonate these feelings of professionalism and pride I have within myself through my hair. It may seem silly, but you never know who could be judging you by the way you look. I hope that if I ever am being judged, whoever is doing so also takes a look at my hair bun.
Hopefully in doing so, they'll realize that with each step I take, I am an example of the Air Force and the U.S. military - that the pride I've taken when fixing my hair bun is the same pride that I and other military members have, not only in our appearance but also in our service to this country.
To me, it's more than just a hair bun and I hope it continues to be.