Story by SMSgt Paul Mann on 04/07/2019EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska "I feel that I could probably take on the whole North Korean army myself right now," said the 43-year-old from Los Angeles. "You are bulletproof once you grow a mustache that's straight from Robin Olds."
This quote is from a 2018 Stars and Stripes article about Airmen at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, celebrating "Mustache March" and remembering the service of Robin Olds.
Olds was a triple ace, scoring his first 12 kills while flying a P-38 Lighting and P-51 Mustang during World War II. During the Vietnam War he flew the F-4 Phantom, shooting down four enemy jets, and growing his iconic handlebar mustache.
"It became the middle finger I couldn't raise in the [public relations] photographs," Olds once said. "The mustache became my silent last word in the verbal battles with higher headquarters on rules, targets and fighting the war."
Many of those who serve now might not be looking for a way to "raise the middle finger as a silent word," yet Airmen of the 168th Wing did observe the distinguished aviator.
Chief Master Sgt. Clint Miller, 168th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle fleet manager, said, "I support Mustache March in honor of Robin Olds and my perception of the spirit of the USAF. The innovators that tread on the fringes of our established norms and sometimes blast through the barriers of how we do things are a unique breed and this simple, unruly, out of regs' mustache is my salute to thinking outside of the box."
Several of them said they participated in the annual event to show respect, honor and thankfulness to the legendary heroes and patriots of our Air Force past. Others spoke about Air Force heritage and leadership by example, or how growing a mustache is a conversation starter that allowed them to talk about Air Force history while paying homage to those who paved the way for today's Airmen.
Some unit members had different interpretations of Mustache March.
One deployed Airman said, "I mainly do it to be comic relief. March happened to be the last full month of my deployment and I knew that letting it grow out would be some cheap entertainment for my flight over here."
Entertainment motivated many unit members to grow mustaches, knowing that their haphazardly grown facial hair would start dialogues or sometimes incite laughter, both motives that boosted unit morale and camaraderie.
For reasons unknown, a large number of maintenance personnel take part in the tradition.
"I participate in Mustache March because it is part of our Air Force heritage from a time when our country was in a bit of political turmoil and an Air Force officer decided to push back a little about things that didn't matter and tried to focus our Airmen on things that did matter. I think we need to get there again," said Master Sgt. Ray Allen, production superintendent with the 168th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Maybe it is fitting to close this out with an Airman who has been a member of the 168th Wing since its inception in 1986, Senior Master Sgt. Bob Fine, 168th Maintenance Group plans and scheduling noncommissioned officer in charge.
Fine is currently deployed to Southwest Asia and said, "It's a tradition every year in maintenance [so] I thought I would get a jump on growing my just because I can' facial hair heading into retirement."
He will retire this year shortly after returning home.
Come April 1, though, most of these furry expressions are washed away.