Tag: Air Force

U.S. Navy Finally Joins Army, Air Force and Marines in Lifting Ban on Dreadlocks for Women

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak hid her locs under a wig for years before fighting to lift the Navy’s dreadlocks ban. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JACQUALYNN LEAK)

by Kenya Downs via huffingtonpost.com

The United States Navy is joining the Marines, Army and Air Force in ending its ban on dreadlocks for female sailors. The naval branch announced the reversal Tuesday in a live broadcast on its Facebook page.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson says the change won’t just make the Navy more formidable, but also more inclusive.

The Navy enlisted a six-person working group to recommend changes to grooming standards, based on feedback from their peers. As part of the decision, ponytails, buns and other styles will also be permissible for women in uniform so long as they don’t interfere with a sailor’s operational or safety needs. Male sailors are still required to keep their hair short.

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak, a member of the working group, has worn dreadlocks since 2014. She led efforts to reverse the ban and says her fight involved years of research on the cultural and health aspects of wearing locs. She also surveyed dozens of female sailors affected by the ban.

“I wanted to make an argument so compelling that every reason my chain of command could give me for why dreadlocks were banned could easily be rebutted with facts,” she said.

Before, Leak opted to cover her shoulder-length dreadlocks by wearing a wig, which she says became more difficult as her hair grew. Options were even more limited for other female sailors. Some were forced to choose between cutting off their dreadlocks in favor of chemically straightened hair, or facing harsh punishment.

In 2014, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Sims, a hospital corpsman, was honorably discharged for refusing to cut off locs she’d worn in a tight-knit bun for over a decade.

While challenges to military rules on hairstyles aren’t new, controversy surrounding black hair reached a peak around the time of Sims’ discharge. As word spread, revisions to Army grooming regulations were leaked, revealing proposed changes to ban hairstyles common among women of color. The proposed policy, called AR 670-1, would have banned all natural hairstyles, including twists, braids, cornrows and Afros.

Many criticized the regulations as specifically targeting black women. Once it had been made public, the policy faced immediate backlash, culminating in an open letter from the Congressional Black Caucus and an official review ordered by the Pentagon. The decision was ultimately reversed.

But that reversal didn’t include dreadlocks. First Lt. Whennah Andrews of the U.S. Army National Guard has been fighting for servicewomen’s right to wear them ever since. Together with fellow soldiers, Andrews began a campaign to challenge misconceptions many within the military have about dreadlocks’ cleanliness, cultural relevance and ease of use.

Leak enlisted Andrews for guidance when deciding to take on the Navy. Andrews says the Navy’s announcement is the final triumph signaling a victory for military diversity.

“When news broke that the Army lifted the ban on locs, I thought to myself, ‘It’s not a complete win until all of the branches authorize them,’” she said. “The unique challenges African-American servicewomen faced with trying to adhere to grooming policies were universal across the Department of Defense.”

This week’s decision makes the Navy the last branch of the military to drop grooming regulations that prohibit dreadlocks. The Marines first approved locs for women in 2015, and the Air Force announced late last year that dreadlocks would become an approved hairstyle after a review by its uniform board. The Army authorized dreadlocks for women earlier this year after having previously banned them since 2005.

Formerly Homeless Veteran Alicia Watkins Now a Student at Harvard University

U.S. Veteran Alicia WatkinsAlicia Watkins is a retired Air Force staff sergeant who proudly served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She risked her life for the freedom of others, survived the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, and watched her colleagues die. But it wasn’t any of her combat experiences that broke Watkins’ spirit; it was the fact that she retired from the military and found herself homeless.

In 2010, Watkins’ allowed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to document her life as a homeless veteran. Her “kitchen” was a cardboard box of snacks and microwavable meals. Her bed was a car that she rented for $10 a day. Her restrooms were the toilets at various airport hotels.

Watch a clip from Watkins’ eye-opening video diary.

The 10-year veteran was struggling, but even during her low points, she believed that others were struggling more. At one point, Watkins did have housing, but she gave up her room to a homeless mother and her three kids.

“It might have been different had I not seen the children and the babies. So, I decided to be on the street and put them in the room,” Watkins told Oprah five years ago. “Why wouldn’t I?”

Since that emotional interview, a lot has changed for Watkins, who recently sent an update to “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” In the above video, she shares a surprising truth: Until her ‘Oprah Show’ interview aired, Watkins’ friends and family had no idea she was homeless.

“I had… alienated myself from everyone,” she admits now. “They really were shocked when they found out, and they were also just hurt by the fact that I was suffering.”

After the show, Watkins moved in with a family friend. Though she no longer lives in a car, Watkins says that her many health issues have prevented her from being able to work.

“I have traumatic brain injury, I have post-traumatic stress disorder, I have a spinal cord injury,” she says. “It’s a hard road. I would love to be able to work today. I have offers, I have people that are willing to help me, but they all have to take a backseat to my health. As much as I want to work, I have to acknowledge that I am a casualty of war.”

With a secure roof over her head, Watkins decided to focus on her education and began applying to colleges.

“I wanted to be able to care for wounded warriors, and so I decided to apply to Harvard University,” she says. “In 2012, I was accepted. My college expenses are paid by the G.I. Bill.”

Watkins’ says that her personal life has really turned around as well.

“I recently got engaged, on my birthday of all days,” she says, smiling. “It is amazing.”

“Oprah: Where Are They Now?” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

article via huffingtonpost.com

R.I.P. Charles V. Bush, the First Black Page in the U.S. Supreme Court

2CharlesBushAccording to UPI.com, Charles V. Bush, the first African-American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court page, and one of the first black Air Force Academy graduates, has died in Montana. He was 72.  Bush’s wife, Bettina Bush, told The Washington Post he died from colon cancer Nov. 5 at his home in Lolo.

Bush, who grew up in segregated Washington, was fourteen years old when he was named a Supreme Court page in July 1954. Bush worked primarily in the anteroom of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who sought the appointment of an African-American.  Bush was a member of the debate and rugby teams and a squadron commander at the Air Force Academy, before graduating in 1963.

Bush also served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, overseeing intelligence teams during the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Khe Sanh, the Post said.  He left the Air Force in 1970 with the rank of captain. His son, Chip Bush, said the elder Bush left in part because he thought he was overlooked for a promotion due to his race.

Besides his work in the corporate sector, Bush was a diversity consultant to the Air Force and the Air Force Academy, the Post said. His corporate career included work in executive-level positions for companies, including Max Factor and Hughes Electronics.  Survivors include his wife, three children, his mother, a sister, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.  To learn more about Bush’s life and career, click here.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson