Remembering Inprocessing: 'Just take a little off the top'

Air Force Academy Basic Cadet Logan Mitchell gets his hair cut on inprocessing day June 25, 2009.

Air Force Academy Basic Cadet Logan Mitchell gets his hair cut on inprocessing day June 25, 2009.

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- For most of the Class of 2013, as for classes before them, in-processing represents a culture shock like none before it. One event that produces an immediate result in this vein is the haircut station, where military style is imposed on basic cadets. 

Basic cadets shuffled in from the hallway, relaxing for the few minutes before they were relieved of the hair they had been so proud of. Many of the barbers were excited to clip long hair from some of the basics' shoulders. 

"I had a mullet before I got here," said one basic cadet, who had been prepared to have his hair cut. The haircut station was a place where basic cadets could, as Debbie, one of the barbers put it, "Let their hair down." Many, however, found it hard to even relax, nervous and anxious over the day's previous events. 

The barbers attempted to relieve their stress and have them relax by asking questions and making small talk. Many of the basic cadets found themselves in lively discussions about hometown theme parks or about their vacation experiences. 

Male cadets all had their hair shaved nearly to their scalps, giving them the look shared by classes before them. Females who could put their hair up could pass through this station unbothered, weighted down only by some extra hairclips for the rest of basic. Some females, though, chose to have their hair clipped for ease. For all basics, the new style of their hair was definitely military, clashing with their civilian clothes. 

For some, the haircut was worth it. When a barber asked Basic Cadet Rafael Magaña why he was here, he replied, "They offered me a free haircut, so I showed up." 

After basic cadets had their haircuts, they found themselves quickly back at attention in the hallway, where they were sternly directed to the next station by the nearest cadre member.