Seymour Johnson Airmen accelerate Air Force grooming standards change

  • Published
  • 4th Fighter Wing


SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Thanks to the hard work and dedication from Airmen stationed here at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, the Air Force is amending its grooming standards once more, incorporating more options that go into effect June 25, 2021.


Master Sgt. Johnathon Lind, 4th Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Control non-commissioned officer in charge of training, and his wife, Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn Lind, 4th Fighter Wing command chief executive assistant, created the Warrior Braids Project and worked with the Women’s Initiative Team to make the grooming standards in Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Appearance, more inclusive for female service members. 


“During the summer of 2016, my wife and I started an organization called the Warrior Braids Project,” said Johnathon. “We started getting support from other women to research and develop a solution to the medical and inclusion problems associated with female hair policies.”


The Linds tried four separate times to get support at three different locations to present the Warrior Braids Project findings but none prevailed until they arrived at Seymour Johnson. 


Johnathon explained how he used his chain of command at three previous bases to present their findings which went well at the squadron level but never made it to the wing commander due to many setbacks and multiple permanent changes of station. 


When the Linds arrived at Seymour Johnson, they once again used their chain of command and presented their Warrior Braids Project findings to the 4th FW commander and command chief.


“The group has over 850 members and have spent countless hours researching, interviewing, compiling data and working with the Women’s Initiative Team to submit a request to the uniform board,” said Chief Master Sgt. Eric West, 4th FW command chief, in a memorandum. “Their work is very thorough and answered many questions about the policy change.”


Together with the Women’s Initiative Team, they identified the issue to be bulk requirements causing women to have medical problems, scalp sensitivity, hair loss and many more problems as the primary issue in the original proposal that was submitted in September 2020 to the uniform board.


Their proposal was accepted and on February 10, 2021, AFI 36-2903 was revised so that women would be able to wear a single braid, dual braids or a ponytail that extends past the collar, but no longer than the elbow. 


Although many female service members were happy with the changes in the regulation, those with type three and four hair provided feedback that they could not partake in the new requirements due to the type of hair they have because it would exceed the width of their head. 


Type three hair is curly hair that ranges from tight, curly tendrils to light curls. Type four hair in coiled hair that is dense and tight. Hair follicles that are angled into the dermis cause hair to curve as it grows causing curly hair.


Curly and coiled hair types are also produced by flat oval follicles compared to straight hair which is produced by round follicles.


The team, recognizing the exclusion of women with these hair types in the updated uniform guidance, submitted an additional request to the uniform board to make it more inclusive. On June 11, 2021, the Air Force once more made an amendment.


Beginning June 25, when hair is secured behind the head, the hair may extend six inches to the left and to the right and six inches protruding from the point where the hair is gathered. The 12-inch total width must allow for proper wear of headgear.


“Change doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes it takes another iteration to arrive at the best solution,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. “This updated guidance represents meaningful progress. The feedback we received from our Airmen highlighted the need to reevaluate the policy and ultimately, make it more inclusive.”


“I am proud of the hard work Master Sgt. Lind and the entire Seymour Johnson team did to help make hair policy more inclusive for those with type three and four hair,” said Maj. Alea Nadeem, Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group and Women’s Initiatives Team chief. “These Airmen are leaders in every sense of the word and have made the Air Force a better place with their hard work on making sure we have inclusive policies.”


Airmen stationed here led many of the efforts making this accomplishment possible. They worked to gather data, highlighted the barriers and moved into action to make changes. Without their action-oriented mindsets, what seemed impossible at the beginning has come to fruition. 


“To the Warrior Braids leadership team: Capt. Hailey Garrett, 1st Lt. Natasha Monroe, Senior Airman Emily Stanley-Cruz and everyone at Seymour Johnson including Col. Kurt Helphinstine, Chief Master Sgt. Eric West, Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Cooper and the entire First Sergeant’s council, thank you for helping me to accelerate change,” said Johnathon. “I want this team here at Seymour Johnson to inspire other Airmen around the Air Force to not be afraid to build a team and make a change.”


The Air Force revises Air Force Instruction 36-2903 to address differences in hair density and texture June 25, 2021. (U.S. Air Force graphic)