As part of efforts to create a more inclusive culture, the Air Force is reviewing a new proposal that would permit additional hairstyles for women in the service.
During a Q&A segment during the Air Force Sergeants' virtual symposium, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles 'CQ' Brown teased the possibility of allowing women to wear ponytails in uniform.
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"I just got a package [proposal] yesterday about ponytails for women," Brown said Wednesday. "So we're looking at a number of different things that we've got to work through, [where there are] second-order impacts associated," he said.
The review is part of an ongoing effort to "improve dress and appearance policies," where applicable, added Capt. Leah Brading, a service spokeswoman.
"We are looking at hairstyle and grooming policies, including the possibility of various new options for women," Brading said in an email Thursday, but did not provide additional details.
Female airmen can now wear only a single ponytail "that does not exceed bulk and length standards and does not extend below the bottom of the collar," according to the dress and appearance policy.
Other services allow for ponytails, but in limited settings. The Marine Corps in 2019 authorized for women with medium-length to wear a "half ponytail" hairstyle during physical training. Similarly, women in the Army can put braids, cornrows and or twists into a ponytail while they PT.
The Navy gives the most latitude: While ponytails were only previously authorized in PT uniforms, the Navy in 2018 amended its decision to include locks or ponytails in both working and physical-training uniforms.
In July, Defense Secretary Mark Esper put out a military-wide directive ordering the development of new hair and grooming standards with an eye to eliminating bias and inequity. The directive requires the services to "make appropriate policy modifications" no later than Sept. 15.
Brown said some of the initial actions from the diversity and inclusion task force that was created earlier this summer have included changes to name tape protocol and increased scholarship opportunities for cadets.
For example, the service approved nametape wear for airmen whose names contain accent marks or hyphens -- a small step in the long journey to tweak or remove unfair barriers for Air and Space Force uniformed members, Brown said.
"There's still a lot of work to be done, we're making some initial steps, and I would just tell you, stay tuned, and keep the cards and letters coming," he said, addressing airmen watching the symposium to submit feedback whenever possible.
The Air Force introduced a new survey in July that asked airmen to describe racial injustice or bias they'd witnessed or experienced during their careers. It also asked for their opinions on improvement the service can make down the line.
"One thing I'm worried about and want to make sure we do is, as we make some of these improvements, that we don't appear at the Air Staff to feel really good that we did something, [but] you're out in the field coming back to us and saying, 'That that was kind of a nothingburger' or 'It didn't really have an impact,'" Brown said. "So I really want to get that feedback."
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.