Iraq is a country filled with mustache men. I'm just guessing here, but I believe it's one of those "cultural things".
Americans have a "cultural thing" too. It does involve the almighty mustache, but it's the motivation behind it that makes it different from the cultural norms we see here in the Mideast.
A couple days after we left the states, one of our compadres came up with the great idea for all men in the unit to grow out a mustache. Apparently this is a time honored tradition among many Soldiers as they deploy - a rite of passage, as they say.
The end result is that we feel a certain kinship with one another, having shared this hair growing experience. On the other side of the gender line, this rite of passage is equally inclusive. The females in the unit are able to watch a bunch of baby faced goofballs transform their persona's into the rugged Tom Selleck-like men that we wish we were.
The slow and almost indistinguishable transformation provides the she-soldier with hours of entertainment and certain laughs, scoffs and general teasery (what good is a journalist who can't make up a word every once in a while) that comes with the childish competition we man-soldiers inflicted upon ourselves.
For one month the whiskers, if you want to call the fine hair on our upper lips whiskers, raced to some unknown end. A competition for what? Who has the bushiest, the most colorful, the most glamorous, the sexiest, manliest or most stylish? Who knows. The key thing here is, we did it together. We conquered whatever it is or was and we did it as a team. No one can take that from us - no matter how many laughs and scoffs were directed our way.
This is what Soldiers do. We do things together. We fight side by side. We win battles with our buddies next to us. We suffer separation from family and friends together. We eat, work, sweat and sometimes even cry together. Then why not grow a mustache together.
That said, here are my opinions on why each person joined in on the challenge.
SPC (P) Soles: He came into the unit later than most and he just wanted to have a good male bonding experience with all the other boys. It worked! It's as if he has always been with us and we couldn't be a whole unit without him.
SSG Burrell: This is easy. He has some fetish for the French lifestyle. This was his way of saying, "Hey! Pierre, I can look just like you, no? Oui, oui." Besides, the babes really dig a man with a "stache". (just more French wishful thinking)
1SG Martinez: Hey, I'm the 1SG, I'm supposed to lead from the front. I had no choice. Who wants to follow a 1SG into war who can't grow a mustache.
SFC Quebec: Probably the only one in the unit that can actually grow a full mustache without looking like a goofball. Deep down, he knows this and so I believe he grew it just to show us how it's done.
SSG Ford: It's all about style for SSG Ford. He's done this before. Quebec may be able to grow a mustache out, but SSG Ford knows how to make it look good - neat, trimmed and classic.
I only have a few photos here for illustrative purposes. If I get a few more I'll add them. But, you should know that the rest of our male soldiers participated as well; SPC Alperin, SFC Burke, SGT Fardette, SGT Risner and 1Lt Sarratt.
All of them had their reasons too.
SPC Alperin: It's all about having fun for SPC Alperin. It was a great way to mark the moment and have a laugh - ahh, the memories.
SFC Burke: "Aw heck, I can do that and still drink my coffee! Count me in."
SGT Fardette: Hey, he's from Hawaii. It's part of the Hawaiian spirit to join in with your bruddas and make it a family affair. Life is good, a mustache can only make it better.
SGT Risner: It took me a while to figure his out but, this is what I came up with. This man can play a mean guitar and he has the voice to go with it. He may just make it to the big time with his music. I think he was just testing his stage persona on the rest of us to see if it was marketable. Uhh, I'd say, try another gimmick.
1Lt Sarratt: He likes sweet treats, but has limited his sweet treat intake to once a week, on Saturdays. I think he did this so he could secretly hide a pecan pie in his stache for consumption later in the week, but I can't prove it.
So there you have it. A milestone in our deployment history; now, come and gone. Next up? I believe the she-Soldiers have already begun growing out their leg hair. I can't prove it, there's no way to tell for sure but, I think SGT Anderson's is starting to flow out the top of her boots. Just an observation.