Navy Eases Grooming Standards Over Coronavirus Concerns; Selection Boards, Graduation Ceremonies Suspended Indefinitely

March 19, 2020 5:02 PM
Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Nicholas Hall, left, from West Helena, Ark., cuts the hair of Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) Fireman Shawn Nelson, from St. Joseph, Mich., in the barbershop aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) in the Red Sea on April 18, 2019. US Navy Photo

The Navy is relaxing grooming standards as the service tries to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In a pair of NAVADMINs released on Wednesday, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell said the fleet was authorized to skip getting haircuts and as well as suspending all group physical training activities, including physical fitness assessments.

“Due to COVID-19 force health protection measures maximizing social distancing, commanding officers (CO) are authorized to relax the Navy hair length grooming standards,” Nowell wrote.

The relaxed grooming standards apply only to the hair on the scalp. The Navy’s grooming standards for beards and sideburns remain in effect.

“COs may allow for additional hair length and bulk on the sides, top and back of the head, but at no time will relaxed grooming interfere with the proper wearing of Navy head gear and proper use of protective personal equipment (helmets, masks, hoods, etc.),” Nowell wrote.

The Marine Corps has not relaxed its grooming standards, according to the service.

Navy Exchange Barber and Beauty Shops will remain open for now, but with limits on the number of customers allowed inside at any one time. The operating status of individual shops can change depending on each installation’s commanding officer’s guidance.

Additionally, barbers and beauticians are required to routinely clean and disinfect tools, implements and surface areas. Tools that touch customers must be cleaned after each use. Barbers and beauticians must wash their hands with soap and water between customers.

The Navy is canceling all Cycle 1 physical fitness assessments which occur during the spring. The assessments include the Physical Readiness Tests and Body Composition Assessments.

“The Physical Readiness Program office will work with Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS) On-line to *EXCUSE* all Service Members in the Physical Readiness Information Management System(PRIMS) for Cycle 1, 2020,” Nowell wrote.

In a separate NAVADMIN, Nowell announced Wednesday that all selection boards would be suspended until further notice.

The suspension affects all officer and enlisted selection boards – for promotions, advancements and other milestones – that were set to convene at Navy Personnel Command on or after March 24, as a means of reducing the unnecessary risk of official travel to Millington, Tenn., where boards convene, and to avoid large groups of sailors gathering in close quarters.

“As the COVID-19 situation evolves, NPC will refine the board schedule and will promulgate additional guidance that ensures no eligible Sailor is disadvantaged by this action,” Nowell wrote.

According to a Navy news release on the topic, “all originally published requirements for enlisted advancement eligibility or officer promotion zones will apply to the rescheduled boards. This means only those eligible for the original board based on original board convening schedule will be considered. No additional candidates will be added. Letters to any officer or enlisted board are still due by the originally scheduled date. These will be maintained at NPC until that member’s board meets.”

Additionally, the news release adds, “once board season resumes, policy is being developed to ensure retroactive dates of rank can be set and allowances for back pay made, if necessary, after board results are eventually approved or confirmed by the Senate, ensuring no Sailor is disadvantaged by the delay.”

The Navy also announced today that Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) would suspend until further notice all large-scale graduation ceremonies for Recruit Training Command (RTC), in Great Lakes, Illinois, and Officer Training Command (OTC), in Newport, Rhode Island.

Sailors sing Anchors Aweigh during a pass-in-review graduation ceremony inside Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall at Recruit Training Command on March 8, 2019. US Navy Photo

NETC previously announced on March 9 that family members would not be allowed to attend the graduation ceremonies in person and would instead have to watch a livestream of the events online. Now, as the threat of the COVID-19 virus has worsened, a news release notes that “recruits, officer candidates and other students will continue to graduate, but these milestones will be marked by small, internal events that cannot be livestreamed.”

“Although graduation is an important symbolic event for sailors and families, it is not essential for training. In light of concerns about large gatherings, NETC determined it would be inappropriate to continue public ceremonies. Graduations and guest attendance will resume as soon as it is safe,” the news release adds.

Additionally, this week the Navy Chief of Chaplains gave guidance to the Chaplain Corps on mitigating the threat of spreading the virus while continuing to provide religious services. Among the directions in the guidance is to suspend serving food and drinks, assess the risk of day-to-day activities, and find ways to leverage social media and other ways of remotely conducting work.

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

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