By Rhonda Apple, Pentagram Staff WriterMay 5, 2014
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - A Department of the Army official fielded questions, clarified regulations and provided guidance on enforcement of revised uniform and grooming standards for all Soldiers during a training session at Spates Community Club at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall this week.
The April 25 session at the Fort Myer portion of the joint base saw a packed ballroom of about 150 to review the details - some deemed controversial in recent media reports - of revisions to Army Regulation 670-1, released Army-wide March 31.
Arguably, the hottest detail discussed was changes to acceptable hair styles for female Soldiers.
Recent changes to unauthorized female hair styles - to include changes to authorized lengths and types of particular hair styles, including corn rows, braids and twists - touched off an online petition in opposition to the changes.
Likewise, the revised standards have drawn criticism in media reports, but uniform policy Sgt. Maj. LeeAnn Conner explained that only three formal requests from Soldiers asking the Army to reconsider the new grooming standards were received by the Army Uniform Policy Board. In fact, the changes implemented stemmed from recommendations from several uniform policy panels, the largest of which consisted of some 200 female Soldiers and was led by an African-American female Soldier.
"Regarding hairstyles, their guidance was to be consistent with the other services and to set a standard which could not be used to create a faddish or other unauthorized hairstyle," Conner said. "The regulations for women's hairstyles in AR 670-1 were created by a panel of your peers - women Soldiers."
Conner told the audience that once the Army Uniform Policy Board received formal requests for review, in addition to hairstyles, other grooming standards were also under review.
In addition to hair grooming standards, Conner engaged attendees with examples of other correct and incorrect grooming standards, including fingernails, cosmetics, jewelry, tattoos, ear piercing, sunglasses, backpacks and handbags, umbrellas and other policy changes.
The session echoed sentiments by the Sergeant Major of the Army, Raymond F. Chandler III, about the revised standards, who called on all Soldiers to "revisit training on standards and discipline" during a recently released public service announcement on the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic website.
"Our Army has always prided itself on military appearance, its uniforms and proper grooming," said Chandler. "These changes support that commitment. Each of us must ensure we not only know the regulations, but also the underlying reasons for their implementation. By doing so, we can better understand why they play such an important part in our Army profession."
Additionally, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has directed the service secretaries and military chiefs to review their respective grooming standards, according to Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Defense Department's press secretary, during a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon April 29.
"During the next three months, each service will review their hairstyle policies as they pertain to African-American women to ensure standards are fair and respectful of our diverse force, while also meeting our military service's requirements," said Kirby. "After he [Hagel] gets these reviews, after a thorough review of the service recommendations, he will make whatever appropriate adjustments to DoD policy are necessary."