After years of being forced to chose between their hair and staying within regulation, African-American servicewomen in the United States Army are praising revised grooming policies that’ll allow them to don dreadlocks. The Army announced plans to lift the ban on locs early last month in a directive that largely focused on grooming policy changes that pertained to religious accommodations, according to The New York Times.
Buried in the memo was text stating that female service members would now be permitted to wear “dreadlocks/locs,” as long as the strands are less than 1/8 inch wide, the scalp grid is uniformed and neat, and, when gathered, all the hair fits into the authorized bun size of 3 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches deep, as stated under Army Regulation 670-1.
The change was happily welcomed by African-American servicewomen, who, in April 2014, were outraged after the Army enacted policies that explicitly prohibited locs, twists, braids and other protective hairstyles common in the African-American community. Many argued that the regulations were confusing, discriminatory and left Black servicewomen with little hairstyle options while in uniform.
On Tuesday, February 9, Lt. Gen Nadja West will be honored in an official ceremony formalizing her promotion to three-star general, making her the first African-American woman to achieve that rank in the United States Army. She is also the highest-ranking woman of any race to have graduated from West Point.
The promotion and ceremony follows the 54-year-old’s confirmation by the Senate as the new Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) as of December. As such, West will be assisting and advising the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff in relation to all health care matters in the Army, in addition to overseeing development, organization, policy direction, and other matters relative to the Army-wide health care systems.
“I was once an orphan with an uncertain future,” said West of the promotion and the new responsibilities facing her in the future. “And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation’s sons and daughters, veterans and family members. While our Army and our nation face tough challenges in the future, I am confident that collectively we have the right skills, commitment, and talent to meet those challenges with mission success,” she added.