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For Marines, War is No Excuse for Looking Shaggy

Even in a war zone, certain customs must be upheld. So when Fox Company of 2nd Battlion, 8th Marine Regiment returned from a several-day mission, the non-commissioned officers were already berating young lance corporals for their shaggy looking hair.

The next morning, Fox Company's 3rd Platoon was abuzz -- literally -- with the sound of electric razors. Marines, some quite expert, and others obviously novices, volunteered to execute regulation Marine Corps haircuts by the dozen.

From black plastic boxes, the barbers pulled out razors, scissors, and green smocks to drape around their customers. Style-wise, the choices came down to "low", "medium", or "high and tight" -- meaning the level on the head of the distinctive line of the Marine Corps haircut. ("Low" being within regulation, but somewhat frowned upon.)

"The 'fade' is the hardest part," said Lance Cpl. Justice Rayburn, 21, of Westland, Michigan, as he attempted to smooth the line between the shaved neck and clipped head of Lance Cpl. Brantley Gunn, 20, of Thorsby, Alabama.

Nearby, another Marine in a green smock winced and cursed because the metal electric razor was so hot in the 110-degree sun of southern Afghanistan.

Over in the shade, one of the more experienced camp barbers, Cpl. Ryan Seeker, 24, of Tallmadge, Ohio, trimmed the hair of Cpl. Jason Sevin, 22, of Herndon, Va.

In the degree of fanaticism over hair length, the Taliban may have met their match in the Marines.

By Ann Scott Tyson  |  July 24, 2009; 1:34 PM ET
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Next: Marine Finds Solace in Combat Baptism


Ooh Rah! And Semper Fi!! :)

Posted by: ms1234 | July 24, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Do your homework: The Taliban typically have shoulder-length hair, so how have they "met their match in the Marines"?

Posted by: robert7ii | July 24, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

robert7ii: So it's not a perfect parallel, but I'm guessing the comparison here is to the Taliban's beards (they have a minimum prescribed length that, while they ruled Afghanistan, men could be thrown in jail for not meeting).

Posted by: gmg22 | July 24, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

God bless them but listen to this these kids are out on a several day mission in the bush, scared to death and the first thing they get is "berated" from their
superiors about hair? Jez... no wonder there are so many PTSD cases.

Posted by: affirmativeactionpresident | July 24, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Semper Fi to the Devil Dogs!

Gotta love the discipline.

Posted by: magicInMiami | July 24, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

robert7ii, c'mon, think... the taliban are fanatical about not cutting their hair and beards and the Marines likewise about short hair and no beard, but both have one thing in common in this arena: hair. Thus the author's comment.

Posted by: adhughes | July 24, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Semper Fi... Ooh Rah! Unless your a Marine you will not understand the "Spirit De Corps" and camaraderie involved in this simple action. This is one line affirmative action need not cross.

Posted by: Luwarn2 | July 24, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Luwarn2, you are welcome to your exclusivity, but I would suggest perhaps it's spelled "esprit de corps."

Posted by: random-adam | July 24, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Back in the day when we had leather boots, a fellow Staff Sergeant made his platoon spit shine their boots before taking to the field.

I felt that to be just way, way over the top. My platoon was scruffy by comparison, but a hell of a lot happier.

And to all my fellow Marines, Semper Fi.

And to The Post, thanks for this. I've sent the link to all members of my Marine Corps League detachment.

Posted by: seahawkdad | July 24, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Delighted to see the Marines are keeping up their grooming. They look good but can they fight?

Again, the Marines grab all the press while the Army does almost all of the fighting and dying in both our wars! As of yesterday, there have been 562 Soldiers killed in Afghanistan while only 91 Marines, 48 Sailors and 47 Airmen have been killed there.

Lest you think the Marines have been "holding down the fort" in Iraq, there are very few Marines left there and only one Marine has been Killed in Iraq since April while 42 Soldiers have been killed there. Since the beginning of hostilities there, 3148 Soldiers have been killed while 1020 Marines, 100 Sailors and 51 Airmen have been killed in Iraq.

The Army is doing a disproportionate share of the fighting and dying for this country in both these two wars although I am delighted to see the Marines have decided to rejoin the fight in Afghanistan after having been "missing in action" for the past several years.

Posted by: A-COL | July 24, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

In regard to an earlier post stating that soldiers have been doing the majority of fighting and dying, I would point out that the U.S. Army's endstrength is ~547K (+ 22K from SecDef) = 569K soldiers. The USMC is endstrength is currently held at ~202,000. Do the math and one would note that it's physically impossible to put Marines all over the globe in the same way the Army does.

I would also point out that as the Army's very own General Patton once said the object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his. Ergo the number of service personnel killed does not necessarily represent tactical or operational excellence.

Posted by: salsa1 | July 24, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse


I'm a big proponent of getting in, getting the job done and using technology instead of lives.

While its true that the Army does an awful lot and epitomizes "boots on the ground", basically there are about 507,158 ARMY versus 179,762 MARINES. Not sure how the Reserves figure in (about 1,000,000) but let's assume that the ratios remain basically the same.

so 3148 / 507,158 = about .62%
1020 / 179,762 = about .56%

Looks a lot closer now doesn't it?

I guess the military uses its "assets" as it deems appropriate. For whatever reason, and I am sure politics was involved, it was the Marines turn to lead the most recent offensive foray.

Probably be better to let the Air Force carpet bomb the mountains and hills surrounding the valleys ... followed by some precision strikes within the towns in the fertile crescents. Including both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Or they could learn from Sadaam and Israel's west bank settlement strategy: bring in the 700,000 plus Sufi's in from Pakistan to overturn the Taliban. Sufiism generally is opposed to terrorism and takes a dim view of cutting folks heads and hands off. If the Marines really want to push the Taliban out, and bring law and order in, education back, and a better economic outlook they would do well to bring in the very resilient Sufi's who certainly could be considered locals and the best bet for allies in the Marine's attempts to bring peace and posterity.

Be expensive though ..

Posted by: periculum | July 24, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

A-COL, Hey man, think before you write. Of course the Marines have got lower casualty rates; they're a smaller service. If their casualty rates were similar, they would have taken extremely disproportiante losses. On top of that, they have other responsibilities. Ever been to a US Embassy abroad, yup, it's the Marines who guard them; just one of many examples of what Marines do. This is a feel good story about a sister service you're all worked up over. Chill out.

Affirmitiveactionpresident: you don't understand what's going on here. This is about discipline and keeping morale high; Servicemembers do not get PTSD from haircuts.

This is just a window into how life really is for the few who volunteer to execute society's wishes while some members of society sit back and make snide comments.

Anyway, thank you Washington Post

Posted by: cpt_FA | July 24, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

The 2nd marine pictured with a mustache is my wonderful fiance, Cameron Gunn! I'm so so so excited to see him. Words can't explain it. It's the first I've seen his wonderful face in two long months! Truly an answer to my prayers!! Thank you so much for the videos and coverage! I can't thank you enough. I'm going to watch the video at least a hundred more times now!!!!!

Posted by: lchammock | July 25, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but I have to support cpt_FA's comment on haircuts (in opposition to Affirmitiveactionpresident's post). It may seem as though something insignificant like a haircut represents an overbearing command structure, but appearance, and the discipline to maintain it, are central to a unit's discipline. Discipline---unit/self-discipline especially---are the building blocks to mission success. That probably comes across as some crackpot military guy spouting off, but the fact is, w/o discipline the unit will not accomplish the mission (job #1). Yes, the haircut is a ridiculously small detail compared to the strategic perspective of winning the counterinsurgency in AFG, but it represents a building block for future success. Recall that the only discipline is perfect discipline (another Patton-ism) and if it means Marines are trimming their hair to regulations, then they're their probably cleaning their rifles (firepower, lethality), changing their socks (health, mobility), drinking enough water (survival), etc. With that discipline then they'll be ready to shoot, move, and communicate when necessary to close w/and destroy the enemy, whomever they may be. Last time I checked, that's what they're paid for.

The Greeks introduced the phalanx to military arts and consequently conquered much of the known world with it. But it was the Romans who brought forward the concept of unbending discipline, enforced by their centurions (today's Staff Non-Commission Officers), which supplied the rigor that stiffened their legions to preserve Pax Romana, but I digress...

Listen, haircuts don't cause PTSD. Seeing your closest buddy die in an explosion of pink mist due to an IED does.

Posted by: salsa1 | July 25, 2009 2:32 AM | Report abuse

I would contend that the casuality rate very closely equates to the "engagement rate" with the enemy so of the Army-Marine killed in Afghanistan, 86%+ have been Soldiers and 14%- have been Marines. Given this, one would expect a similiar proporion of press coverage which is not the case.

The old joke is that an Army squad is 12 men while a Marine squad is 13. The extra Marine is the PR man!

Posted by: A-COL | July 25, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Hey A-Col. Sounds to me, like a gripe from someone that couldn't make it as a Marine.

Posted by: devildogdad | July 25, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

affirmativeactionpresident: Marines don't get "berated" for not having a haircut when they just got back from a combat mission. The berating part is just another example of creative journalism by a reporter. Is discipline enforced among Marines? Absolutely. It's necessary to keep us alive.

A-Col: the Army has been jealous of the Marine Corps since the days of the Revolutionary War. That's how long you all have been trying to get rid of us. If you don't believe me, read Victor Krulak's "First to Fight". As many other Marines pointed out above, the Army is much bigger. It stands to reason that the Army should have more people in the fight and therefore more casualties. We have not been "out" of the fight as you say. Up until recently most of our deployments were to Iraq. After all, it was mostly Marines who took Fallujah and pacified Al Anbar. Quit being jealous just because the spotlight is not on you.

Posted by: Marine79 | July 25, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

The first marine is my son! I cannot say "Thank You" enough to the Washington Post for this article. This is the first time that I have seen a picture of him since he was deployed. And like lchammock, I will be watching this video a 100 times.

I pray for the safe return of ALL our troops.

Posted by: swtrobinc | July 27, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

As quoted by COL McFarland, a young Marine sergeant was asked by a SgtMaj how it felt to work alongside the Army. He replied, "You old guys need to get over that ." I think that applies to some of the comments on this post - interservice rivalry and joking around is one thing, but A-COL and a few others need to drop the parochialism.

BTW, A-COL, the Marines in Anbar were actually taking a higher proportion of casualties than the Army until the 2007 surge in Baghdad. What does that prove? Nothing, except that your attempt to use casualty statistics is misleading. If I remember correctly, there was some great coverage of the 173rd ABCT fighting in NE Afghanistan last year. The Army has had its chances to take the spotlight.

Best of luck to Fox Co and the rest of America's Battalion. I only hope that the NCOs had their priorities in order and broke out the clippers after weapons were clean and magazines were refilled.

Posted by: Slab | July 27, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/27/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by: ThunderRun | July 27, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

My nephew is one of the marines in the video. It brought joy to be able to see he is fine and well. For thoes of you who think the marine do not fight please feel free to step out there with them and please go first. We have had someone from our family in the Army, Airforce, Marines, and Navy and they all put their lives on the line to keep the peace and freedom. Until you stand next to them you have on idea what they are doing.

Posted by: btasker | July 27, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"God bless them but listen to this these kids are out on a several day mission in the bush, scared to death and the first thing they get is "berated" from their
superiors about hair? Jez... no wonder there are so many PTSD cases.

Posted by: affirmativeactionpresident | July 24, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse"

I am glad that you asked God to bless them, but as far as "scared to death", that is a misuse of words concerning our Marines and Soldiers and our other Military Services.

While the word "scared" is way over used, there are degrees of scared. I won't list them all but as it pertains to our Military it can be described as acute apprehension where senses and adrenaline kick in overtime, but also where their training "kicks in".

I know, because I was in combat almost continually for two years.

After a while though, your mind and body adjust somewhat to the strain of being around people that are trying to kill you.

Some adapt better than others, but the better trained you are the better you can handle it. And the better your superiors are the better you will react.

I was only close to being "scared to death", the very first time I was shot at. But that is what training and discipline are for- to enable the Warrior to follow orders, know what and how to do it and to close with and destroy the enemy.

The Marines are very, very good at that and that is coming from an ol' Army Grunt who has seen the Marines ply their trade.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Posted by: paparay01 | July 27, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

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