EUCOM Bars Troops from Wearing Uniforms Off Base

Chairs and tables sit empty at the Anatolia Kebab House just outside of RAF Mildenhall, England, in the early afternoon on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. ADAM L. MATHIS/STARS AND STRIPES

STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. European Command has ordered all troops serving on the continent to refrain from wearing uniforms off base except when they are commuting to work in their personal cars or on base buses.

The directive, which was sent to respective service components on Nov. 10, has gradually worked down the chain and was expected to be in full effect at bases across Europe by Tuesday as part of an effort to ensure the safety of personnel, EUCOM said.

In addition, EUCOM’s enhanced force-posture measures include a recommendation that all personnel review their individual social media accounts to ensure geolocation functions and settings on their profiles are not overly revealing, the command said.

“We continually assess threats to our forces with and alongside our host nation counterparts and take appropriate measures based on those assessments,” U.S. Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, EUCOM spokesman, said in a statement. “We will not get into the specifics of those threats nor the assessments. EUCOM has taken this step based on our firm commitment to make every possible effort to ensure the safety and security of our servicemembers, civilians and their families.”

Last month, EUCOM issued guidance to the services, urging them to consider imposing a ban on wearing uniforms off base. The guidance, however, was not a mandate and did not result in all bases’ issuing blanket uniform bans. This directive is mandated for all troops within the EUCOM area, Hicks said.

The sight of uniformed troops off post is not unusual in military communities across Europe, where policies on uniform wear often vary.

The current mandate shouldn’t change anything on Navy bases in Europe. The Navy already limits overseas uniform wear to on-base activities or during travel to and from the base, a rule occasionally stretched by sailors who wear physical training uniforms while exercising off base or participating in community relations events. U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa issued a reminder of the rule to sailors last month.

In England, the U.S. Air Force adopted EUCOM’s earlier guidance last month, banning almost all off-base wear of uniforms according to a post on the RAF Mildenhall Airmen Family Readiness Center Facebook page. Some local businesses say they have already seen the effect of that policy in reduced sales. At the Spice Lounge, an Indian restaurant near RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, manager Jay Ali said that Americans were the primary customers during lunch and that sales have dropped since the uniform ban was imposed. Staff at the Japanese Oysy Sushi restaurant near RAF Mildenhall also reported a falloff in business.

The decision to impose the new uniform restriction, which applies to all of the roughly 70,000 servicemembers stationed in Europe, is unrelated to the assault on three U.S. sailors last week in Istanbul, EUCOM emphasized. In fact, the EUCOM policy was issued two days before the attack.

Those sailors were out of uniform at the time of the assault, which underscores that servicemembers can be targeted even if they are not wearing their fatigues.

Still, the move by EUCOM appears aimed at ensuring troops don’t draw unnecessary attention to themselves at a time of growing concern about the potential for terror attacks in Europe.

Islamic militants engaged in the fight in Syria and Iraq have called for “lone wolf” attacks against Western targets.

It’s not the first time that uniform wear has been prohibited off base for military personnel serving in Europe. In 2011, after a lone gunman shot at a group of U.S. airmen at Frankfurt Airport, killing two and seriously wounding two others, EUCOM forbade U.S. troops to wear their uniforms off post “to the maximum extent possible,” including daily commutes to and from the office. Less than six months later, that policy was relaxed somewhat, with both the Army and Air Force permitting the wear of uniforms while commuting to and from work.

Stars and Stripes reporters Steven Beardsley, Jennifer Svan and Adam Mathis contributed to this report.

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