Sailors sound off on what they hate

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Sailors sound off on what they hate

Post by krnl »

There’s the right way, the wrong way and the Navy way.

Everyone on the deck plates has heard a chief use that explanation of why some Navy rules make no sense.

So we asked what you think are the dumbest rules in the fleet, and you fired back.

Story credit: Navy Times Article ... d_072709w/

We’d like to take credit for the question, but it really goes to Army Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, who asked his soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division what steamed them about the way the Army lays down the law.

Oates got nearly 100 responses to his blog post. We got more than 150 e-mail responses and dozens of posts on our forums, where this topic has been viewed more than 6,700 times as of Friday.

Some of the top complaints:

• Though officials have relaxed the Navy working uniform’s wear rules, some sailors still aren’t happy — they want the even more liberal policies of the Army and Air Force.

• Others think sailors on watch should be allowed to put their hands in their pockets to keep warm.

• Others griped about overly strict liberty policy overseas.

We passed on some of the gripes to service leaders to get their takes. We learned that some sailors are mistaken about the rules or hadn’t gotten the word that something has changed.

Our take is that a little grievance-airing never hurt anyone.

Or, as chiefs say, “A bitching sailor is a happy sailor — the time to worry is when he stops.”

Here’s a look at what fleet sailors think are stupid rules and what the Navy says about why they’re in place.

In the end, even if you think a rule is nonsense, you still need to follow it.
Housing allowance equity

I think the Basic Allowance for Housing for all service members, married or single, should be the same.

The difference in pay between married and single people is a crime. If a single person lives off base in the same apartment unit or house as a married person, the married person has extra BAH, plus possible income from a spouse.

-- YN2 (AW) Vernon Parker III, aircraft carrier John C. Stennis


It makes no sense in the world to me why higher-ranking [members] get paid more BAH than their juniors. Why would an admiral, who makes quite a bit in base pay, need more BAH than an E-4 who doesn’t get paid anything close to that and barely makes enough to pay the bills?

-- YN3 Lionel Shane Holloway, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5

• Chief of Naval Personnel’s answer: Like all pays and allowances, BAH is based on law, and supported by Defense Department regulations.

Specifically, Title 37 U.S. Code, Sec. 403, states that “the amount of the basic allowance for housing for a member will vary according to the pay grade in which the member is assigned, the dependency status of the member, and the geographic location of the member.”

This two-tiered system results in those with dependents receiving a higher amount of BAH than those without dependents, based on the need to provide lodging for a family.

However, following recommendations from the 2008 10th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation, the services agreed to set the BAH rate for singles at no less than 75 percent of the BAH rate for those with dependents.
Enlistment restrictions

Former officers can’t enlist. I graduated Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs Class 267 on Feb. 15, 2008, as a lieutenant junior grade and completed most of the six-month follow-on training before being dropped from the program for reasons that would not have prevented any enlisted sailor from serving as a SEAL.

On June 1, the Navy separated me, so I have asked to come back as an enlisted man and serve as a SEAL.

[But officials say] it’s against policy for former officers to serve as enlisted men.

It is ridiculous that the Navy has spent [so much money] to train me and won’t let me do the same job for less money as an enlisted sailor. The Army, on the other hand, will allow this, and I’m considering enlisting with them. But I would much rather stay Navy.

-- Former Lt. j.g Clint Russell, Fort Benning, Ga.

• CNP’s answer: Given the unique living and working arrangements of sailors, the Navy enforces separation of officers and enlisted in order to sustain good order and discipline. The Navy does not have a procedure that allows officers to enlist, and the recruiting manual prohibits the action. However, the practice can be waived. Over the past 20 years, the Navy has allowed reserve officers not on a firm career path, on a couple of occasions, to resign their commissions in order to go to [SEAL training] as an enlisted member.

It also is possible that a warrant officer who has been discharged from the service can, with approval, be enlisted, but not in a grade lower than what he immediately held before appointment as a warrant officer.


The Navy has what seem to be arbitrary age cutoffs for many jobs, whether it be officer programs, pilot training, SEALs or even first-time enlistments. I think the government would hound any other organization that discriminates as much as they do.

If an applicant can pass all physical tests, then he or she should be allowed to proceed with that career path.

-- IS1 Randy Smith, Foreign Military Studies Office

• CNP’s answer: Title 10 law mandates that a service member must enter service at an age that allows completion of 20 years of qualifying service prior to age 60.

In addition, an age limit is set on accessions into special programs, such as SEALs and aviators, because statistics based on past performance show the physical capabilities of students of a certain age range are most likely to complete training.

Training is expensive; we do not want to unnecessarily spend taxpayer dollars or use our instructors’ limited time on candidates who have a low percentage chance of completing training successfully without injury. Those exceptional individuals who are outside the norm may be considered for an age waiver.
NWU, out in town

One new rule that I think is ill-thought-out is the new manner of wear for the NWU [Navy Working Uniform]. Sailors represent our armed forces in the same way that the other branches do, and we should be permitted to wear our NWUs in the same fashion as the other services. That’s not to say that some locales won’t have restrictions, such as the D.C. Metro area, but that should not be fleetwide.

-- EM1 (SW) Tony Chambers, Norfolk, Va.

• MCPON (SS/SW) Rick West’s answer: The NWU is a working uniform, plain and simple. Our service has traditionally drawn a distinction between our working and dress uniforms, and that’s one of the pieces of our heritage that has set us apart. I have no intention of recommending a change to that now. If a sailor has an occasion to go out in town in uniform, I’d like to see them in crackerjacks, the same uniforms worn by our fathers and grandfathers on liberty. If not crackerjacks, then a service uniform or service khaki is acceptable, too.

The routine stops [policy] made sense, and I’m proud our CNO saw fit to allow it. That was a quality-of-life issue and a good change to policy. But to take it further would be going too far.
Frocking and finances

Why does the Navy allow sailors to put on a new rank months before they are actually advanced or get paid for it?

They will ask you to take on the responsibility of the next-highest rank for an average of seven months, but the only thing they’ll give you in return is a shiny new collar device.

-- HM2 (FMF) Eric S. Vorm, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Anbar province, Iraq

• CNP’s answer: The Navy’s budget does not allow for all advancements to take place at once. If all advancements were to take place as soon as the advancement results were known, the Navy would not have money available to pay all of those higher salaries for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The only way the Navy could afford to advance everyone at once would be to wait until the final increment date (June and December for E-4/5/6, for example) and advance everyone at that time.

The Navy allows frocking so that sailors may enjoy certain privileges of the next higher paygrade much sooner than if they had to wait for their actual advancement date.

While frocked sailors are not entitled to increased pay and allowances, they are entitled to military ID cards and certain privileges of the higher paygrade, such as clubs, messing, berthing, housing, and parking.

Also frocking is voluntary. If a sailor were to decline frocking, they would be advanced at their official advancement date.
Overseas liberty policies

A friend and I went out to have a drink. We had gotten separated, so I went straight home to bed.

He got arrested by the Japanese police later that night and at [his disciplinary review board], they found out I was with him earlier that night.

I was called in and went to [disciplinary review board] and had nonjudicial punishment with the commanding officer.

I was put on Class C liberty (can’t leave the ship) for almost three weeks before I went to mast.

I was “awarded” restriction, a $200 fine and suspended bust to E-4. I did absolutely nothing wrong and was punished for it.

-- FC2 (SW) Allan Hernandez, Cruiser Cowpens

• 7th Fleet’s answer: 7th Fleet offers some of the best liberty in the world, but with great reward comes great responsibility. Our sailors are ambassadors.

Experience has shown us that liberty incidents are frequently the result of excessive alcohol consumption coupled with a failure to use the buddy system. We require our people to use the buddy system, and we hold them accountable when they don’t.


The curfew policy for liberty ports overseas is too stringent. There are 30-year-old E-3s with families and responsibilities who have to adhere to curfews made for children, while 21-year-old E-5s get overnight liberty.

I experienced the liberty policy during our Mediterranean deployment port visits. I was a newly enlisted 25-year-old E-3, reporting to 21- and 22-year-old single E-5s. When I would challenge my chain regarding the policy, the constant refrain was “rank has its privileges.”

I think maturity and responsible behavior should definitely be taken into account.

-- HM2 Joe Lerma, Bethesda, Md.

• 6th Fleet’s answer: Unit commanders may grant overnight liberty for port visits based on an assessment of the current force protection environment.

The command liberty policy applies to all visiting or deployed units and personnel assigned to Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. [They] may establish a more restrictive liberty policy based on local conditions or the current force protection environment.

If conditions permit, unit commanders may authorize overnight liberty on an exceptional basis to E-4 and below personnel only when they have demonstrated maturity and reliability, and their conduct warrants such meritorious trust.
Protection from the cold

On a cold day [when] you are wearing your peacoat on the pier, naturally you are going to put your hands in your pockets. In the regs, it says it takes away from the “smartness” of the uniform — that is just plain stupid.

The famous statue of “The Lone Sailor” [shows] a sailor with his hands in his pockets.

-- AE3 (AW) Jim McPherson, carrier Carl Vinson

• CNP’s answer: Sailors are not authorized to place their hands in their pockets because it appears unprofessional and detracts from military smartness.

The Lone Sailor statue was not designed by the Navy and therefore is not in line with Navy uniform policy.


I think that the watch cap wear rules are in need of a change. Why can you not pull it down over the ears?

-- SK2 (AW) Tim Crow, Fort Collins, Colo.

• CNP’s answer: Watch cap rules did change with the implementation of the physical training and Navy working uniforms. Unlike in previous years, the watch cap is now worn across the ears [instead of] above them.
Bring back beards

If you can grow facial hair and keep it neatly trimmed, you should be able to do so.

This already happens on submarines; the CO can allow facial hair while underway. Routinely, we would buy “no shave chits” for $5, and the proceeds would benefit the boat’s recreation fund.

We had to shave any time we pulled into port for any reason or if the boat had riders.

Some say the Navy forbids beards because they say sailors can’t get a good seal on a gas mask or in firefighting gear — I never found this to be the case.

-- MM1 (SS) Eric B. Stanton, Trident Training Facility, Bangor, Wash.


Since 1985, the Navy has banned beards. Before that, they were allowed, and it was something that set sailors apart. I think the Navy should allow us to make the decision whether to shave or not as long as the beard or goatee meet a standard set by the Navy.

We are easily identifiable in any town or city that we visit because we are always clean shaven. Why does the Navy have a no-beards policy, and would they consider changing it?

-- CS2 E. Gonzalez, Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar, Calif.

• CNP’s answer: The Navy is not considering reversing its policy on beards. Beards have been determined to be potential safety hazards during firefighting and damage control evolutions requiring the wearing of face masks and ensuring unrestricted breathing of supplied air.
Fleet sailors at ‘A’ school

I think it’s stupid that those E-4 and below coming back from the fleet to go to an “A” school at Naval Training Center Great Lakes, Ill., are treated like they just came out of boot camp.

[However,] a young sailor who has only been in the Navy for a few months and just got out of boot camp and “A” school can go to a “C” school in Great Lakes and get freedoms a fleet returnee cannot.

-- IT2 (SW) Damien Washington, Navy Operations Center Pentagon

• Training Support Center Great Lakes’ answer: “A” school students live in an apprentice-level training environment and as such receive enhanced professional military training to reinforce the sailorization process begun at Recruit Training Command.

Fleet returnees who attend an “A” school are expected to be part of the unit, working to support team cohesion, but also should have a higher level of professional maturity over students just out of boot camp.

For that reason, they assume leadership roles, demonstrating to the newer sailors how to function in a military environment and follow policies and procedures. As such, they do receive more privileges than their non-fleet counterparts, including liberty and watchstanding.

“C” school students are not part of the apprentice-level training environment and are not subject to the same rules as “A” school students.
Complaint department

If we’ve missed a silly rule that really has you steamed, let us know, and we’ll get the Navy’s take. Send your gripes to
:pirate: Go Navy! :pirate:

Rick Sandlin (Formerly FCC(SW))
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