The Navy's policy for how female sailors can wear their ball caps is changing, thanks to a request made by a junior officer to the chief of Naval Operations.
In a short video posted to his Facebook page Thursday night, Adm. John Richardson said he had gotten the question from a lieutenant j.g. during an all-hands call, held June 6 at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. The officer asked if female sailors could start wearing their hair buns through the opening in the back of their ball caps, which at the time was not permitted.
"We took a quick poll right there in the audience, and there was nobody who objected to changing that right on the spot," Richardson said. "I came back and asked [Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke] and, effective immediately, you can now wear the cap with the bun through the hole in the back, above the strap. I think this will be a lot more comfortable, and it will look a lot better."
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A forthcoming Navy administrative message will detail the change, Richardson said, but the new policy is effective immediately. While the policy tweak may seem minor, female sailors said in comments on Facebook that the previous rules made it frustrating and difficult to wear the caps.
Overnight, Richardson's message was liked 3,000 times on Facebook, and received 680 comments.
One sailor, who identified herself on Facebook as Kieran Nicole, said she had watched the exchange at the all-hands call.
"She was so nervous till he said, 'What if I changed that by the end of the week,' " Nicole wrote. "Literally everyone roared."
Others commented that it was about time for a change.
"Not gonna lie: I NEVER enforced that rule," one commenter, Jahmal R ONeil, wrote. "It was illogical and time-consuming. I honestly pretended I didn't know, and NEVER corrected any ladies I saw breaking this rule."
Another commenter, Michael Hook, said the old way of wearing the caps looked "stupid" and wondered why the rule had existed in the first place.
"Anyway, happy for the female sailor victory out there," he wrote. "Really a victory for all, as we all had to look at that awful policy. Glad it was changed."
The rules governing Navy ball caps have become more important to sailors in the last three years, with the service making a series of decisions expanding their wear as a uniform item.
In September 2014, the service allowed sailors to start wearing Navy ball caps with Navy working uniforms, a response to repeated requests from the fleet. In 2016, it updated the policy, authorizing the wear of a coyote brown command ball cap with Navy Working Uniforms Type II and III.
Richardson said he hadn't previously been aware of the problems female sailors were having with their ball caps and that the episode illustrated the value of all-hands calls with sailors.
"I was unaware that that was an issue, and so thanks to the lieutenant j.g. out there for making that known to me," he said. "We promised to fix it, and now it's fixed."