Welcome to the Army

Welcome to the Army addresses indoctrination—the basic training phase of the military experience. The governing document for Enlisted Initial Entry Training Policies and Administration states: "Male Soldiers will receive a haircut." The Soldiers pictured in these images received their very first Army haircuts only seconds before. Basic Combat Training (or Boot Camp) is about 'breaking you down to build you back up," and there is no better synecdoche of the experience. It is a literal removal of the old to make way for the new, and it is the first real physical transformation these young men make in service to their country. The Army haircut is transformative. "I am a Soldier now," this moment says. There is an intended loss of the self, which unfortunately suggests the denial of that which was promised in the recruiting stage of the military experience.

Despite this process and its intentions—the beginning of indoctrination and unification—these images also serve to show that total homogeneity is impossible. While the men wear the same clothes, have the same haircut, stand the same way and are photographed in the same light, their individuality shines through. Shapes of the heads, how the ears protrude, the colors of their skin. Each man is different, and nothing can completely remove their individuality.