Emotional Wounds Of New Army Rules - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Emotional Wounds Of New Army Rules

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(KCEN) -- Opponents of the Army's controversial new hairstyle restrictions say some may not realize the emotional and psychological trauma they can cause.

Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee joins the fight against the regulations, which have been widely criticized as being racially biased and culturally insensitive.

On Wednesday a ban on enforcing the rules was written into its mark up of the Pentagon's annual budget bill 

That's after a female, African American soldier's White House petition fails and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel orders all branches of the Military to review grooming standards and submit revisions.

"I think the rules are absurd," says Lavunte Lashley who cuts and styles ethnic hair at Big League Barber and Beauty just outside of Fort Hood's gates.

Lashley says those grooming standards need a makeover.

"You need to have a general knowledge about ethnic hair before you make certain rules," says Lashley.

He estimates that lately, about five out of ten clients he sees are female soldiers who come to him, because they are forced to change their hair.

As of  this past March, twists, dreadlocks, braids thicker than a quarter inch, and oversized or uneven cornrows are not allowed in the Army.

"African Americans are being targeted," says Lashley.

Those particular techniques are known as protective styles.

They naturally tame thick, coarse, curly hair without harsh chemicals, which prevents potentially devastating balding.

"I have experienced that particular type of hair loss through radiation, it is very traumatic," says La'Toya Gaston, as she sits in Lashley's barber chair.

She has also witnessed first-hand another common and crushing problem, this time caused by regular ponytails.

She learned about it the hard way, when the hair around her daughter's face began to fall out.

"If you have the same pony tail pulled back over and over again, not only will it break at the spot where the ponytail touches the hair, but it will break in the front," Gaston explains.

A few blocks away at AllureXperience Hair and Barber Studio, Trishelle Polk estimates 80 percent of her customers are Soldiers, who are now banned from some of the healthiest ways to manage their locks.

She says, "A lot of people are going into the cornrows, into the single braids, into the box braids, because of the heat and the weather here in Texas."

Lashley is hopeful more people will agree that a vibrant part of his rich culture is under attack.

"Then of course, we'll have change, change has to come," he says with resolve and finality.

In the meantime, it's the soldiers who must adapt.

Reporter: Sophia Stamas sstamas@kcentv.com
Photographer: Cameron Duckworth cduckworth@kcentv.com

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