Photo Information

It’s rarely pretty. It’s often not in regulation. And it’s a hassle to maintain, but the CAX Stache is a constant of pre-deployment training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. (Left to right, top to bottom) Capt. Roy (Geico) Haskins, Lance Cpl. Jason M. Terrill, Capt. Luke Pernotto, Cpl. Erek S. Sharp, Pfc. Daniel L. Lohmann, Cpl. Ryan Guedry, Lance Cpl. Warren Truehaft, Pfc. Kevin C. Vaughn, Lance Cpl. Brent J. Ford.

Photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

Moustache-growing competition motivates Marines

5 Apr 2010 | Sgt. Mark Fayloga Marine Corps Base Hawaii



1. a type of Marine Corps running shorts characterized for being short and revealing.

2. an occasional series chronicling moments in America’s Battalion from pre-deployment training through their mission in Afghanistan. Characterized for being short and revealing.

CAX Stache 

Yes, it looks ridiculous. You’re aware of that. But if there were ever a place to be ridiculous, this is it.

The Combined Arms Exercise,

Exercise Mojave Viper,

The Enhanced Mojave Viper Exercise — the name may change, but Marines just call it CAX. The training is consistently evolving to fit an ever-changing war, but no matter the updates, it will remain a final step before deployment. An exercise so packed with training evolutions the pace has no choice but to be ridiculous.

To honor that you grow your own little patch of ridiculousness, right there, above your upper lip — a CAX Stache.

It is ugly. It is annoying. Sand, shaving cream and food get stuck in it. And, since you let it grow wild, it is often out of regulation.

The Marine Corps is packed with rules and regulations, including those on mustache grooming, but above all things — tradition shapes the Corps.

Your CAX Stache will upset people. They will wonder what abomination is growing on your face. They will make fun of it. They will ridicule you for it. But there will be no order to shave. They understand the tradition.

Maybe you grow yours along with your squad. Men united by facial hair. Or you can be growing it because you understand Afghan culture views facial hair as masculine and you intend to keep yours through the deployment. Maybe you always keep a mustache. Doesn’t matter, out here others will refer to it as a CAX Stache. This is something you understand, so you let it grow freely, embracing the title.

But for all the jokes and bits of food caught in it, even though you’d never admit it, you enjoy your CAX Stache. You will compare it to others, and if yours is fuller and thicker you will feel superior. You will look down on the man who has to give up and shave after a week when his mustache doesn’t fill in. When you come across someone whose mustache is more horrendous than your own, you will acknowledge this. It may be a nod. It may be by making fun of it.

When you are alone, away from the eyes of others, you will touch your CAX Stache. You feel the bristles against your fingertips, embracing the ridiculousness. For as odd as it may look, it is yours. You grew it. You’re proud of it. You are a man. The proof is above your lip. But you have to shave it before returning home.

Your girl hates mustaches.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii