‘Terminal Lance’ Tuesdays: At the intersection of IEDs and grooming standards


If there’s one thing I think we’ve all learned from “Terminal Lance,” it’s that the strip’s creator, Max Uriarte, doesn’t pull any punches. Case in point: “Numbers,” another exclusive from the Marine Corps Times archive. This strip first appeared in the newspaper dated Aug. 29, 2011. “It’s a fairly simple image,” Max told me when he submitted this last summer, “but I think it speaks pretty clearly.”

“Numbers,” original pub date Aug. 29, 2011
(Artwork by Maximilian Uriarte)

For me, this strip calls to mind the story of Gunnery Sgt. Benjamin “Gus” Lepping, whom Marine Corps Times’ senior staff Dan Lamothe encountered three summers ago while embedded with Marines at an austere patrol base in Marjah, Afghanistan. An EOD tech with a gift for neutralizing IEDs and a penchant for politics (dude has a tattoo of Sarah Palin’s face on his butt), Lepping wore a head of hair that probably pushed the bounds of even Air Force grooming standards. Bushy would be a fair description.

Gunny “Gus” Lepping. Marjah, Afghanistan. May 2010

Anyway, when our profile of Gunny ran in the newspaper, it was accompanied by two photos: one showing his tattoo and another showing his face. Not a soul contacted us to take issue with the fact that we published a photograph showing a man’s bare ass — a testament to you, Marines, and your collectively high threshold for immodesty and your wonderful sense of humor. We did, however, take it on the chin from a few readers appalled by Gunny’s shaggy hair and facial stubble. One retired Master Guns wrote us so incredulous at Gunny’s “audacity” that he said “I hope his sergeant major … saw the picture and had a piece of him.”

I’ll admit, I never saw that coming.

What do you think? When, if ever, should it be acceptable to relax grooming standards?


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  1. The fact that there are Marines in senior leadership positions that can even remotely make a connection from grooming standards to getting killed is amazing. I understand living a certain way for decades, but maybe some of them should get off their ass and go on more than 1 patrol a month. Idiots who have nothing better to do than gripe and complain about the color of a Marines socks are clearly detached from the leadership role they should be filling. Socks don’t affect a Marine’s combat efficiency. Also, anyone who says all Marines are rifleman is a boot POG. Kill.

  2. The Gunny has no room for politics on the battlefield. Your feel good slow clap hollywood moments mean JackSH** if you can’t do your job.

    Dedication to your craft, love for your team mates, family, and country. A politician has an agenda that no IED gets to interrogate.

  3. Never should it be acceptable to relax grooming standards, thats the mentality of most leadership who do not understand the operational tempo of many Marines in combat and the difference in priorities between garrison and combat. I wont mention the unit or person, but I once witnessed a BN SgtMaj questioning Marines engaged with the enemy if their “white socks make you shoot better” and “does those (unauthorized) boots help you shoot better?” He walked the line of Marines posted on HESCOs getting some and looking at everybody durring and engagement. Personally, grooming standards are always some what relaxed in the field and combat from the top down. Only enforce grooming standards when time permits.


    Grooming standards should have minimal validity for Marines who are deployed and actively going out on patrol or stationed in desolate outposts, just as long as you don’t look like a complete S***bag. These guys’ primary focus should be protecting themselves and their country, not about looking pretty. In garrison and deployed POGs though, no excuse not to be absolutely squared away.

  5. Anytime Marines are killing the enemy on a day to day basis. There’s no such thing as grooming standards in a shit and blood stained combat zone

  6. When deployed in a combat zone, grooming standards should be very relaxed. The important thing is to do the job and do it well, NOT to have the correct color socks.

  7. the comic highlights yet again the disconnect between barracks bound higher ups and the lower echelon Marines who find themselves in combat. Critiquing an Infantry Marine for the color of their socks, the stubble on their face, the length of their hair, or even the wear and tear of their uniforms in country often times isn’t generated from them being a bad Marine, but chances are that they are results of combat. Who honestly has time to get a high and tight, go to the PX for new in regs socks, Shave, fix their uniforms from the rigors of combat and still be able to carry on with the routines of post, patrol, and the other requirements demanded of them in a combat zone. No out of regs boots or sox might not help you shoot any better, but chances are they are more comfortable and better for your feet, which are just as important if not more so than simply relying on the fact that if a Marine has a weapon they will be fine

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