- A bearded US Army soldier who worships Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is being permitted to keep his beard as part of the military’s effort to be more religiously accommodating.
- The military began allowing beards in 2017.
- The military’s prohibition of beards largely dates back to World War I and the introduction of chemical warfare.
In 2017, the Army decided to allow soldiers to wear a turban, beard or hijab for religious reasons. Initially, religious accommodation of facial hair in the Army seemed to be directed at Sikh service members (beards are a religious requirement for male Sikhs).
Now, however, it appears this new policy also permits adherents of the Norse pagan faith, also known as heathens, to keep their beards. Unlike Sikhs, Norse pagans are not required to wear beards as part of their faith, but facial hair is apparently encouraged.
A memo written by commander Col. Curtis Shroedero to a 795th Military Police Battalion soldier who reportedly made the request stated, “I grant your accommodation, subject to the standards and limitations described below.”
The memo, which has been shared around on Facebook but does not include the soldier’s name, went on to say, “In observance of your Heathen; Norse Pagan faith, you may wear a beard, in accordance with Army uniform and grooming standards for soldiers with approved religious accommodations.”
The authenticity of the memo was confirmed by a Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, spokeswoman to the Army Times.
The military’s prohibition of beards largely dates back to World War I and the introduction of chemical warfare. Soldiers were no longer permitted to wear beards because they got in the way of gas masks. This policy has evolved over time, and some special operations soldiers who’ve served in the Middle East have been allowed to grow beards in order to blend in with local populations.
Not everyone in the military is fond of the new policy toward beards. In January, Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believed beards are a distraction and a “gimmick.”