The Army may allow soldiers to grow beards as a part of their grooming regulations, the Army Times reported.
Several officials told the news outlet that the Army is currently in the process of conducting a study to determine if soldiers should safely be allowed to have beards.
The topic has been discussed for several years, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the study was really considered.
The push derives from religious groups asking for facial hair exemptions.
In January, the United States Army approved a controversial appearance directive that allowed Sikh men to wear turbans and Muslim women to wear hijabs as a religious exemption to traditional dress code. Women were permitted to wear dreadlocks while in uniform as well.
“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”
Sporting a beard is a trend among younger people joining the military and it is a part of popular culture.
Army officials are looking into ways to implement a new facial hair policy that is safe and in line with the Army’s standards and procedures.
“Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers,” Dailey said.
“I’m not against beards, but I do have what I believe should be the perception of the American people of the United States Army soldier,” Dailey added. “I believe we should represent, in their eyes, what they think their soldiers should represent.”
The Army previously conducted tests to determine if beards interfered with properly equipping helmets and gas masks. Previous tests determined that soldiers who had beards could not get equipment properly sealed.
Researchers at Natick Soldier Research Development & Engineering Center are conducting tests to determine if beards and religious headgear interfere with equipment effectiveness.
“We are investigating the feasibility of wearing the Advanced Combat Helmet with beards, along with hijabs, bulk hair, and turbans, in the context of religious accommodation,” Shalli Sherman, who manages Integrated Protection Test Methods at NSRDEC, told the Army Times.
“The helmet fit assessment is nearly complete, and the blunt/ballistic testing is set to begin within the next few weeks and expected to run through June,” Sherman added.
When the study is done, the results will be assessed by Dailey’s senior enlisted counsel and presented to the chief of staff of the Army, Mark A. Milley.