Just one week after the military announced it would relax its prohibitions on natural hairstyles worn by its African-American ranked enlistees, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jessica Sims (pictured) will reportedly be honorably discharged on Friday, after failing to obey an order to cut off her natural do. Naval officials ruled that Sims’ dreadlocks were out of regulation and that her bun was too bulky to be worn with a gas mask, according to Navy Times.
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Sims is a 12-year naval careerist, who has sported the natural style, worn away from her face in a neatly tucked bun, for most of the time since she’s been in the navy. Therefore, the 32-year-old has been on pins and needles while waiting for the naval official’s word with regards to her natural hairstyle telling Navy Times, “For the past couple weeks, not knowing what the Navy was going to do, if they were going to move forward with the discharge or keep me in, had me in a little limbo,” Sims said in a phone interview Wednesday. “In the back of my head I knew that they weren’t going to change, so it was more of just waiting for the date.”
Up until a few weeks ago, Sims claims her hairstyle had never been an issue, but when she checked in to a boot camp in the Great Lakes region, a non-issue became a big deal. From Sims viewpoint, the military’s regulations are not fair all across the board but particularly when it comes to Black women. The Navy’s uniform regulations states “widely spaced individual hanging locks” are banned, but Sims contends, her hairstyle is closely spaced and neatly arranged in a bun.
Even though it means giving up a career she has worked hard to build, Sims is standing on principal that cutting or shaving off her hair or wearing a wig are not options she wants to pursue. “I don’t think I should be told that I have to straighten my hair in order to be within what they think the regulations are, and I don’t think I should have to cover it up with a wig,” she told Navy Times.
According to Chief of Naval Personnel spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, the bottom line is Sims will be discharged for disobeying a lawful order and it all comes down to a safety concern. Servello explains, “As depicted in the photos that Petty Officer Sims provided, you can clearly see [that] the size of the bun that she wears her hair in is out of regulation,” he said. “Bulky hair makes it difficult to wear headgear and safety equipment like a gas mask, hard hat, or firefighting ensemble properly.”
Sims, however, disagrees with the Navy’s observations and defends her stance, because, she says, she makes sure her bun protrudes less than two inches from her head, per regulation, and that she has never had a problem wearing safety helmets or gas masks.
Upon receiving her discharge papers, the young soon-to-be former naval vet plans on starting pre-med classes at Loyola University of Chicago. And Sims has no intention of looking back, from hereon in, it is only full speed ahead, “I look at it like this: God only closes one door to open another for greater things, and I am blessed and highly favored.”