Navy Discharges 12-Year Veteran for Refusing to Cut Her Natural Hair

This week, the Navy honorably discharged 32-year-old Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jessica Sims, a sailor for 12-years, for “refusing to cut her locs.”

Sims has worn her hair in locks since 2005 while in the Navy without any issue, but officials at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois say her hair was out of regulation and precluded her from properly wearing safety equipment.

Sims maintains that those claims are false and she has never had problems putting on helmets or gas masks.

The Navy’s uniform regulations specifically ban “widely spaced individual hanging locks," but Sims says she keeps her hair up in a bun.

She told the Navy Times, "To me, my natural hair is professional,” she said. “It’s all how you keep yourself up. I could just have a regular bun and not take care of that and it could look unprofessional.'

Before arriving at this post, she had spent seven years as an instructor at Naval Medicine Training Support Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, and Field Medical Service School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The military has been under scrutiny for guidelines issued in March that critics believe were discriminatory toward Black hairstyles long worn in the military.  Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel released a memo updating hair guidelines to allow soldiers to wear two-strand twists and braided hairstyles while enlisted, but locs are not an explicitly acceptable hairstyle.

Sims says she does not regret her decision to disobey a direct order. “I am happy that I took the stand that I did,” she said. “I still stand by it. I would do it again if I had to.”

Upon discharge, Sims plans to study biology at Loyola University in Chicago whereafter she hopes to go on to medical school.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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