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The US Army Rolls Back Regulations Against Natural Hair After Months of Backlash

Avatar • Aug 15, 2014

armyregs

In March of this year, BGLH broke the story on the proposed U.S. Army Regulations (AR 670–1) and the subsequent disparate impact on women with natural hair in the Service.

As the issue gained traction among ladies of all background, articles, petitions, letters and forums dedicated to calling out the discriminatory nature of the regulations emerged. The Congressional Black Caucus even got involved.

In a letter to Rep. Marcia Fudge (D‐Ohio), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel disclosed that the military had spent the past three months reviewing the definition of what styles are deemed acceptable.

Hegel penned,

Each Service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements. As a result of these reviews the Army, Navy, and Air Force determined changes were necessary to their Service grooming regulations to include additional authorized styles. These reviews were informed by a panel of military personnel of mixed demographics reflective of our diverse force.”

Translation: they asked some Black people. 

USArmy31

All three branches have authorized two‐strand twists as acceptable styles, and the Army has increased the size of what braids are deemed “acceptable”. Both the Army and Air Force will removed the pointed and offensive language “matty and unkempt” from their guidelines. The Marine Corps have not quite signed off on the reversal, opting to have a working group of the Uniform Board open a survey to all Marines to provide feedback on whether the twists and locs should be allowed. A final decision will be made after the survey closes August 15th (today).

The only Service entity to approve locs as acceptable is the Coast Guard, which could be the beginning of a trend. However, at this time, there is no word that the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force will be taking that step.

Hegel’s Moonwalk reversal letter was accepted with open arms by Fudge and the Congressional Black Caucus. In a statement, Fudge shares,

These changes recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our Armed Forces. With these changes, Secretary Hagel and the Department of Defense not only show that they are responsive to the individuals who serve within our military, but that he and his leadership respect them as well. The Congressional Black Caucus commends Secretary Hagel for his leadership in addressing the issue.”

Although the White House petition started by Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs garnered just shy of 18,000 signatures, the outrage across social media and other avenues online was more than enough to command attention and affect change.

While I am ecstatic over our ability to collectively turn the tide regarding decisions that disproportionately impact us, the fact that it took over three months for the Department of Defense to push the legislative equivalent of Ctrl+Z is troubling. It highlights a serious lack of diversity and cultural competency in areas of decision‐making for all branches of the Service. If the “mixed demographics” were at the table before AR 670–1 rolled out, AR 670–1 would have never been released the way that it was.

Yes, it is only hair.

Yes, there is a need for certain parameters around uniformity and appearance of soldiers.

No, women with natural hair are not forced to serve.

But at the end of the day, these brave women make a conscious decision to sacrifice themselves for their country. The least that could be done is to not insult them while they’re doing it.

Are you satisfied with the military’s response?

 

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About Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

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Carlee
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Carlee

Wow!!! Yes!! It’s sad that they created such regulations in the first place, but it’s clear that our voices are heard once again. Black people are have SO much political power. Let’s never forget that.

denise
Guest

We have the same issue in Jamaica where the female police officers had to suffer for over three years because all hairstyles for natural hair were banned. They recently reviewed the decision and some changes were made. It’s really sad that black women have to chemically alter their hair to get a job. Remove the volunteerism and it’s your decision to serve crap. For most being I’m the service is a job and your hair should not be a hindrance to a job. For example, with the strong rastafarian culture that we have in jamaica, rasta can’t join the army… Read more »

O
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O

You need to publicise that. Do you have any blog posts or are willing to write articles for other sites?

The US Army regulations made international news.

Leslie
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Leslie

This was a great article! Thank you for covering this.

Yvette R.
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Yvette R.

At the end of the day, we’re all human and make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. It’s better for them to acknowledge the mistake and take corrective action than to try to save face by not reversing a bad decision (I’m thinking of The Marines delayed response). I have family that have served and, while I have not personally served, I fully appreciate the sacrifice of armed service. There is a need of uniformity, as much as can be acheived, within the armed forces but with the vast spectrum of race‐specific characteristics—and gender— the regulations seemed a bit overkill. I am… Read more »

TannieB
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TannieB

I am certainly glad they made changes. I am in the US Army, and this made me upset. Especially the two strand twists. I have been natural 10 mos and was getting discouraged. The DA‐Pam actually takes 90 days to amend or make changes. Just like a piece of legislature takes long. I can’t wait to twist my hair this weekend. Hoah!!

Napturally Kia
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Napturally Kia

nothing is as simple as ctrl+z to change things in the military. it goes thru a lot of channels and chains of commands for it to be approved and finalized. i was in the af for 3 years and always put my hair in a bun. didnt want to bring any unnecessary to myself as i was the only woman and POC in my squadron so i would be walking on eggshells. nobody should have to go thru that. people should do what makes them comfortable as long as its in the regs

Gabbi
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Gabbi

So happy for this change, I’m in the Navy and for so long its been confusions o weather or no we could wear twist. On the NPC website it say we cant but in the uniform regulations it doesn’t mention that. So you have some people getting away with wearing them and others like me not even taking the chance and getting them for fear of having to take them out immediately. Some I’m just sooooooo happy we can now wear them! I made sure I signed that petition to cause I was planning on writing Congress but it’s like… Read more »

Aiych
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Aiych

lol @ “they asked some black people”

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