Rules and regulations regarding appearances are nothing new to military service members, but a new clothing policy that affects off-duty soldiers as well as their families and visitors at Fort Irwin, Calif., has many in the military community up in arms.
The policy, which was announced last week on the installation's Facebook page, bans 11 different styles, including backwards or sideways hats, pajama pants, torn or ripped clothing and shorts and skirts that are "too short." The policy applies to all facilities on post, such as the Commissary, the Post Exchange and the gyms, and facility managers have been "directed to deny service to anyone violating the posted policy."
More than 400 comments debating the issue have been posted on Fort Irwin's Facebook page. The Army Times spotted one spouse's post, which essentially equated the policy to Sharia Law. Amber Mooney wrote, "The good news is that I have ordered several burqas (all in black [so] as not to offend those who are sensitive to color) and I'll be able to use all of the facilities on post in the near future without harassment."
At issue for many of the spouses, according to the blog Spouse Buzz, is the fact that Fort Irwin is in a remote location in the Mojave Desert, making living off-post and using off-post facilities especially burdensome. One commenter, Crystal Knapp, wondered how strictly the policy would be enforced: "So would you tell an eight-month pregnant woman to take off her pajama pants? Just wondering. I never wore pajamas around post until I was pregnant."
Many in the community, however, feel the policy is long overdue. Stephen Bernstein, a Facebook commenter, doesn't think the ban infringes on personal freedoms, but rather instills "proper sense and decorum, which is greatly and sadly needed."
Twenty-three minutes into a regular radio broadcast Thursday, Col. Jon Braga, the garrison commander, addressed the controversy and said that the policy is intended to address health concerns in gyms such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus
Aureus, or MRSA, a kind of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics and often causes skin infections. Another impetus for the policy is to promote a "good family atmosphere," Braga said. But even some people who agree with the motivations behind the policy are aghast at the posters announcing it. Sophia Garcia wrote, "I am not complaining about this being enforced. I am complaining about the beautiful pictures they decided to post. There are other ways to go about this without crazy underwear booty short pictures."
Another poster named Megan Studdard agreed. "I don't see why this poster has to be on every building," she wrote. "The only time my young boys see a girl in a thong or 'booty shorts' is when [we] go ANYWHERE on post and they see this poster .... Did 'The Commander' proof this poster before it was plastered up on every building around post?"
In the same radio broadcast last week, Command Sgt. Maj. Dale Perez addressed Facebook comments about a "dictatorship," saying, "We're not telling anyone what they can or can not wear. The duty attire prohibition just restricts what you should be wearing inside a facility if you want service."