Seeing is believing and that’s now the case again for officer selection boards, too.
After a two-year hiatus, Navy leaders have reinstated the requirement for selection boards to review the official service record photographs of officers.
Regulations already mandate that all officers keep an updated full-length photograph filed with Navy Personnel Command. The requirement that the images be seen by selection boards became effective immediately after the Oct. 29 publication of NavAdmin message 265/18.
Enlisted sailors don’t face the same requirement.
In 2016, Navy officials cut the requirement for officers, saying it was redundant because “adherence to physical standards, military bearing and service professionalism is documented in fitness reports and the officers performance summary report.”
But in the new directive, Vice Adm. Bob Burke, the Navy’s top uniformed personnel officer, changed course. He said selection boards wanted to appraise the appearance and physical fitness of officers submitting packages.
“This policy change is the result of board feedback received since the removal of the photograph requirement that the photographs and the board’s ability to assess the Title 10 requirements of an officer’s ability to perform the duties of the next higher grade,” Burke wrote in the message.
This isn’t the first Navy flip-flop on photos.
In 2005, then-chief of personnel Vice Adm. Gerry Hoewing eliminated the service record photo requirement altogether for all officers.
His decision came after what he termed a “careful review” found the images “no longer necessary” because “adherence to physical standards” was commented on in fitness reports anyway. Hoewing hoped the move also would streamline officer records management.
But just two years later, Hoewing’s successor, then- Vice Adm. John C. Harvey, reinstated the requirement, saying it was necessary to “re-emphasize the integral elements of military bearing and physical fitness to service professionalism,” according to his directive.
Harvey’s ruling sparked controversy within the commissioned ranks, with some officers grumbling that Big Navy only wanted to promote good looking leaders.
Reacting to the uproar, officials quickly clarified the policy, defending it as a necessary tool to make sure officers looked sharp and fit while wearing their uniforms.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.