In live call-in show, Navy personnel officials talk hair, uniforms, pay
Sailors stationed all over the world peppered the chief of naval personnel with questions Tuesday in a live all-hands call on topics ranging from hair styles and uniforms to retirement benefits and the length of deployments.
Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran told sailors that although there is no plan to reinstitute imminent danger pay for 5th Fleet and no move to incentivize back-to-back deployments, the Navy is working to decrease the length of deployments back to seven months.
“We are on a path right now … to gradually reduce the length of deployments around the globe,” he said, but doing so will take time because of the maintenance backlog.
Still, he said, Navy leaders are committed to reducing carrier strike group and expeditionary strike group deployments to seven months by 2017.
Moran also tried to tamp down concerns about the recent release of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission report.
The Navy has another month to analyze the report and will communicate with sailors as they do so, he said, but the recommendations from the commission are just that: recommendations. The report won’t change current benefits, and even if the retirement system does change down the road, active-duty servicemembers will be able to keep the current plan or opt into the new plan, depending on their preference, Moran said.
“Breathe through your noses; don’t hyperventilate,” he said, assuring sailors that retirement pay and benefits aren’t going away.
Other questions concerned issues such as uniforms, physical readiness tests and hair. A chief on the USS America asked why the updated Navy hair regulations allow twists but not dreadlocks.
Master Chief April Beldo, fleet master chief for manpower, personnel, training and education, said she had taken on the job of researching dreadlocks and spoke to several beauticians about the style.
The issue, she said, is that dreadlocks are harder to maintain.
“If I have a twist hair style and it’s not in regulation, I can fix it immediately. That’s not the case with dreadlocks,” she said. With dreadlocks, the hair fuses together, and the only solution would be to cut it, she said.
Beldo also told sailors that there are no new initiatives for uniforms, though the service dress uniform has been updated for men and women, and that will be phased in over time.
Moran said the Navy has gotten a lot of negative feedback on the fire-resistant coveralls sailors are required to wear at sea. Many sailors have said the uniform is very heavy, does not breathe and discolors when washed.
“We’ve taken all that feedback … and we’ve now redesigned that uniform, and we’re on the process of going out on bids” to update the uniform, Moran said.
Moran also addressed concerns about the 1 percent reduction in housing allowances, noting that when he was a junior officer, sailors only received 75 percent of BAH.
“We’ve gotten used to 100 percent, which is very good,” he said. “All we’re doing now is trying to arrest the growth of BAH.”
The allowance is determined by an independent source outside the Navy, based on cost of living and the rental market, he said. But in many locations, landlords set rental costs according to the allowance.
“We’ve got to be careful about not just growing BAH because we can,” Moran said. “We’ve got to put some controls in there, and the start of that is this initial step of 1 percent, and we hope we don’t have to go any further than that.”