Pandemic Lapses Bring Scrutiny to Navy Grooming and Military Standards in Naples

All hands at Naval Support Activity Naples, July 22, 2020.
Adm. Robert P. Burke, commander Allied Joint Force Command Naples, speaks during an all hands call at Naval Support Activity Naples, July 22, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Debra Thomas)

NAPLES, Italy -- Grooming, uniforms, saluting and other standards of military life that may have slipped during the COVID-19 pandemic are drawing a renewed focus at Naval Support Activity Naples.

The base last week kicked off "Back to Baseline," a five- to six-week effort designed to remind sailors of their obligations, said Command Master Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Fields. It's time to get back to the everyday essentials of military life, he said.

Fields said the base started the program because rules such as carrying the proper backpack, having a regulation haircut or saluting an officer weren't always being followed as people adjusted their lives to the pandemic.

The Navy gave commanders authority to relax grooming standards in March 2020, including allowing for longer hair, but rescinded the policy in June.

Each week, the base will send information to personnel through emails, Facebook posts or other media about a particular topic, such as haircuts or military courtesy and customs, with links and other references. Adhering to regulations is about maintaining good order and discipline, and history, heritage and pride figure prominently in the rules, Fields said.

"If you're accountable and you have pride in who you are and the uniform you wear and you've held yourself to that standard, then it trickles down into the office and it trickles down into everything else," he said.

While sailors are accountable for maintaining standards now, those who aren't following regulations by early October could face added scrutiny from leadership or their peers, Fields said.  

My basic tenets are "lead yourself, do the right thing and hold each other accountable," Fields said.  

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