Barbers at 43rd AG give Soldiers traditional ‘buzz cut’ during reception Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 January 2013
 
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Soldiers wait for Nathan Carmack, AAFES barber, for their turn to get the traditional “buzz cut” in the Grant Hall barber shop. Every Soldier at the reception station meets military regulations prior to the start of their training.
Story and photo by Melissa Buckley
GUIDON staff
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The eight barber shops on post help keep Fort Leonard Wood’s troops looking like military professionals.

Of the barber shops on post, the one at the 43rd Adjutant General Battalion operates at the fastest pace, giving about 19,000 buzz cuts a year. Jan. 3 was no exception, as in less than three hours nearly 500 Soldiers-in-training swapped their civilian hairdos for a more uniform, military style.  

“A recruit cut is a physical representation of the soldierization process; the transformation from civilian to Soldier. Often you can see new Soldiers walking a little taller and a little more confident after their haircut and putting on their new uniform,” said Maj. Alicia Pruitt, 43rd Adjutant General Battalion executive officer.

Pfc. Mahmoud Solhdoust said his new buzz cut made him feel more like a real Soldier.

“It’s so weird now like this. I’ve had it grown out for 10 years, so I feel light now. I’m ready to start training,” Solhdoust said.

 The Army grooming standards have purposes other than appearance. Soldiers arriving to the reception battalion receive a hair cut on day one of processing primarily to mitigate communicable infections such as head lice, bed bugs, and other infestations that pose a potential health hazard in Army living conditions such as the barracks.
The barber shop at the 43rd AG Bn., is just that — a barber shop. When females enter reception with hair that does not meet Army regulation they are made appointments at the beauty salon at the Main Exchange.

At the 43rd AG Bn., Soldiers-in-training pay $4.45 for what is called a recruit cut. Most barbers refer to the style as a buzz cut — which often times can be shocking for new Soldiers.

“I don’t think they realize how close we are going to cut it and it’s a drastic change for them. I had one that had tears running down his face. The other boys were making fun of him and the drill sergeants couldn’t believe he was crying. It was quite a deal,” said Lois Kimrey, barber on post for last 22 years. “I have cut off a two-foot long ponytail. I’ve even cut off dreadlocks and braids — now those are really hard to get off.”

Jim Sheffield has also cut several different hairstyles off since becoming a Fort Leonard Wood barber in 1954. In the last 59 years he has watched the hair trends transform with the times.  

“At one time a new group of Soldiers would come in with hair down to their shoulders. It’s a chore, but we would get it off. In those days we did more sweeping than we did cutting hair,” Sheffield said.

In addition to the 43rd AG Bn. Barber Shop the barbers rotate cutting hair at the seven other shops on post.

Today a regular haircut costs $6.85, but when Sheffield started he charged only 65 cents. He said he has seen several other changes at the Barber Shops.

“Years ago we didn’t have the vacuum system that we do now. We also used to leave enough to comb, but that didn’t last very long and the Army went back to the buzz cut,” Sheffield said. “Another big change is when I first got here there were over 45 barbers — all of them men. We could even live in the barracks on post. Now, we have 20 and some of them are female barbers.”

He also said years ago shops on post were used for more than just a quick haircut — he remembers using a straight razor to give shaves to the permanent party.

One thing that hasn’t changed for Sheffield is chatting with his customers while they are in his chair. He said he has heard stories about upcoming proposals to new babies being born. Sheffield believes sometimes troops just need to be able to relax and talk.

“I enjoy the camaraderie with the customers. Over the years you have customers that keep coming back and you can’t help but get to know them,” Sheffield said.

It is estimated that Sheffield has given about a million haircuts. When asked who was the most famous or interesting person he has ever had in his barber chair he said, “looking back, all of them are equally special.”

    He said the most interesting thing about his job is watching the transformation from Soldiers-in-training to Soldiers. Cutting hair at the 43rd AG Bn. and the other barber shops on post gives Sheffield the opportunity to see some Soldiers weekly from reception to graduation.

    “They learn the seven Army Values and they change. It’s the best thing that can happen to a young person. I see them when they come here and when they graduate, they are just different people for the better. They have more respect,” Sheffield said.

    Pruitt, being at the beginning of the soldierization process, is pleased with the barbers at the 43rd AG Bn.

“Our barbers are true professionals, and we appreciate their efficiency in what they do in the process of turning volunteers into Soldiers ready to ship to their training units,” Pruitt said.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 January 2013 )