Just two weeks after the RAF changed its rules about wearing a beard, a group of first adopters paraded at a desert airbase in Oman, keen to get the thumbs up from their Squadron Warrant Officer.
Newly bearded members of 3(Fighter) Squadron from RAF Coningsby on Exercise Magic Carpet were scrutinised by WO Glen Hadgraft to decide whether their face has what it takes to produce a full set beard. WO Hadgraft said,
“There has been lots of good-natured banter across the Squadron about who would pass or fail the inspection. Although a small handful were given a week’s grace to allow their beard to develop further, none of them failed.”
“After 36 years in the RAF I’ve seen numerous policy changes. The Air Force needs to change when our society changes, especially if it helps recruitment.”
Passing his first beard inspection, Sergeant Curtis Williams-Ward from London thought it was great when he first heard he was now allowed to grow a beard.
“I think a lot of people think it’s lazy, but I think you have to put more effort into having a beard. I also think it’s good when you go out in groups as you look less military like because you’re not all the same.”
Sergeant Curtis Williams-Ward
While some might think growing a beard in the intense 40 degree plus heat of Oman might be uncomfortable, Senior Aircraftman Hugh McMillen from Staffordshire found the opposite. He said,
“It only started to get a bit itchy near the end of the two weeks and it actually cools your face when you get a breeze through your beard.”
Senior Aircraftman Hugh McMillen
The RAF’s new policy requires airmen who would like to grow a beard to make a formal application. If approved, they then have two weeks to allow their beard to grow before undergoing an inspection.
For the 35 beard applicants of 3(F) Squadron, including two pilots, the first day of the new policy coincided with their deployment to Oman on Exercise Magic Carpet where their Typhoon combat jets have been training alongside the RAF’s long-term partners, the Royal Air Force of Oman.