I mustache you a question, Team Dover

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
From the follically-challenged to the seasoned veterans who've grown full-fledged lip foliage, Team Dover has taken the Air Force-wide Mustache March challenge, laid down by Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, to heart.

"Now, I don't know but I don't think we've had an all-in Mustache March," said Gen. Welsh at a Feb. 20 address. "So I'm putting the smackdown on you guys: Air Force-wide, Mustache March, MAJCOM competitions."

With Gen. Welsh's challenge given and March 2014 coming to an end, how well has Team Dover done for itself?

The Airmen here at Dover AFB have not hesitated in a response to Gen. Welsh's challenge.

Mustaches can be found everywhere on base, from the dentists at the Dental Clinic and the C-5M Super Galaxy pilots at the 9th Airlift Squadron, to the firefighters at the fire station and the Security Forces defenders working at Dover AFB's main gate. It's difficult to walk five feet without spotting a proud Airman showing off their best attempt at a pushbroom or a crumb catcher, hanging out on their upper lip.

But how exactly did this Air Force tradition of growing mustaches during the month of March get started? Why are so many male Airmen growing caterpillars underneath their noses?

The practice started during the infancy of military aviation during World War I and continued through World War II. Popularity increased considerably during the Vietnam War, where Air Force pilots would grow "bulletproof" mustaches, not only as a good luck charm, but also as a good-natured protest against Air Force facial hair regulations.

The most notably of these pilots was Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, then a colonel and commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, also known as "the Wolfpack," stationed at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Brig. Gen. Olds, a triple ace, totaled 16 combined air victories in World War II and the Vietnam War. But he is better known for his extravagantly waxed handlebar mustache, knowingly not in regulation, that he sported while flying missions over North Vietnam.

It became a symbol that served to highlight that mission focus was the most important focal point for a military unit. The idea was that Airmen shouldn't be sidetracked or distracted by enforcing negligible regulations that have little to do with the mission-at-hand.

In today's Air Force, the Mustache March tradition not only pays homage to Brig. Gen. Olds and the Air Force's Vietnam-era pilots, but it has morphed into a morale boosting event that takes place each and every March. Because of Gen. Welsh's challenge, March 2014, has been a pretty big year for this tradition.

When it comes to Team Dover Airmen, mass participation can be seen in every group, squadron, flight, shop, office and tenant unit on base.

Col. Darrell Smith, 436th Dental Squadron commander, estimates that 75 to 80 percent of his squadron's males have participated this past March. He has encouraged participation throughout the DS. Col. Smith himself can be seen sporting an impressive pushbroom style 'stache. Many are and should be envious.

"We grow our mustaches in celebration of Mustache March," said Col. Smith. "It was a charge by Gen. Welsh and it's been a real morale booster within the DS."

Gen. Welsh stated that female Airmen still have a role to play in this Mustache March event.

"Their job is to ridicule us nonstop about the idiotic look that these mustaches will have on most of us as we try to look like Tom Selleck and really look like a three-haired mole, so, fight's on," said Gen. Welsh.

At Dover AFB, some female Airmen have taken this to the next level. Several of them were spotted in the Dental Clinic with faux mustaches, wearing them proudly.

But has Gen. Welsh's challenge for an Air Force-wide Mustache March been realized? Has it even come close to happening on Dover AFB?

Sadly, no. Bare-lipped male Airmen all across Dover AFB can be found. Not everyone has decided to grow face furniture or lip luggage. The only question that can be asked to them is, why not? It's such a great opportunity to grow morale in your respective units and keep the Air Force's strong traditions alive. Please see it in your hearts, but more importantly your upper lips, and continue this tradition in the years to come.

"I love the morale and camaraderie in the month of March, and the tradition behind it," said 1st Lt. Ben Sperring, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight commander.

Though Gen. Welsh's challenge for a mustache on every male Airman didn't materialize this past March, next March is a new year and a new attempt at this challenge.

"Morale within the department is why I grew it," said Staff Sgt. Chad Diehl, 436th Civil Engineer lead fire inspector. "This isn't the first time I've grown one, and I'll continue to as long as my wife allows it."