Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and the Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman, told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday that the top Marine will be getting a call over barbershops that remain open across Marine bases despite an ongoing pandemic.
A video, obtained by Task and Purpose, which said it was shot on April 5, shows Marines waiting in a long line at a barbershop aboard Camp Pendleton, California. The Marines appear to not be maintaining proper social distancing.
When asked about the video Tuesday, Esper said the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger would be getting a phone call from Milley.
“If the commandant is watching, he’s probably on it, but if not, the chairman is going to give him a call and say ‘what is going on?’"" Esper told reporters Tuesday.
The Corps has faced criticism for keeping barbershops open on Marine bases across states that have shuttered salons and issued stay-at-home orders.
Some Marine barbershops have added staff and extended hours to handle the long waits due to barbershops that have shuttered off base over COVID-19 concerns.
At least one barbershop aboard the Marine logistics base in Albany, Georgia, temporarily closed on March 25 due to COVID-19.
But Milley supported Marines continuing to get haircuts Tuesday.
“Yes I think Marines should get haircuts," Milley told reporters. “Discipline is a fundamental function of our force.”
The Joint Chiefs chairman likened haircuts to the harrowing battle at Iwo Jima during World War II.
He told reporters at the Pentagon that as a son of a Navy corpsman who hit the beaches on Iwo Jima during World War II, “it took extraordinary discipline to conquer that island with the 7,000 Marines killed.”
Milley said that victory was the result of “incredible discipline.”
“It may seem superficial to some, but getting a haircut is part of that discipline," Milley said.
The top Marine has placed the authority to close barbershops and institute relaxed grooming standards in the hands of local commanders.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.