05 April 2007

Beards for Afghan-bound RAF personnel

From the MoD Defence News:
Personnel from 51 Squadron RAF Regiment have taken an unusual step in their bid to win over local people during their forthcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

Such is the Squadron’s motivation and attention to detail during their preparation many of the gunners have grown beards. Previous experiences by the RAF Regiment in Afghanistan reflect the fact that men with beards are more likely to be respected within Afghan society.

So 51 Squadron, based at RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire, requested permission from senior officers in order to help them win the hearts and minds of local Afghans, for whom a beard is a symbol of stature and masculinity.


Squadron Leader Tony Brown, Officer Commanding 51 Sqn, said:

"Throughout the last three months of pre-deployment training the guys have become very focused on what they’re going to be doing. The motivation and enthusiasm to get the job done is high.

"It is essential that we win the hearts and minds of the local people, the majority of whom are friendly towards the NATO forces. In the rural south where we will be, beards are a big thing culturally and represent strength and virility.

"Beards engender a lot of respect in the local community and this may help to open doors and give us a rapport with the local population."

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