Ask the Captain - Q&A (continued)

Question (April 2015): I was shopping at the Navy Exchange and saw a woman shopping while breastfeeding her baby. There is a time and place for everything, and I don’t feel this was it. Isn’t there a place in the women’s restroom for that?

Answer: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this hot topic. I’ve learned that a lot of people have strong opinions about breastfeeding, and as leaders we have to be very clear about the law: what’s required, what’s permitted, and what our responsibilities are to families everywhere.

California Civil Code Section 43.3 “a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private … where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present.” In other words, if the mother is permitted access to a location – like the Navy Exchange – then she is permitted to breastfeed there. So, by law, the right time and place to breastfeed a baby is when and where that baby is hungry.

You asked about sending women to the restroom to breastfeed. Even in situations where a separate, private breastfeeding location must be provided, such as in the workplace, the restroom is expressly forbidden from being that alternate location. You wouldn’t want to eat your lunch in the bathroom, and the law doesn’t require babies to eat there either.

Question (August 2014): What are the regulations regarding animals being left in a vehicle? If the animal has plenty of ventilation and has plenty of food and water would an officer site/fine the employee?

Answer: Thank you for allowing me to address this issue. There are no Navy-specific regulations regarding leaving animals unattended in a vehicle. Naval Base Ventura County Force Protection uses California Penal Code guidelines, as laid out in California Penal Code section 597.7.

In short, the code says that if you leave an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that threaten the animal’s health or well-being, you can be cited for a violation of the code. Additionally, law enforcement, animal control or humane officers may remove animals in apparent duress from a vehicle, even if it means breaking in.

Even with food and water, relatively mild days can lead to stifling temperatures inside of motor vehicles. According to studies conducted by the San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences, vehicle temperatures rise an average of 19 degrees Fahrenheit in the first 10 minutes, and leaving windows partially open for ventilation has little effect.


Question (September 2014): I live on base in Port Hueneme; my spouse is active duty. Last weekend a Chief stopped me at the NEX and told me I needed to turn my t-shirt inside out, as it was offensive and in violation of policy. I am not a member of the military, and I have a first amendment right to say whatever I like, including on my t-shirt. I think your Chiefs need more training.

Answer: In this case, it sounds like the Chief is doing exactly what we ask Chiefs to do: enforce standards. COMNAVREGSW Instruction 1020.1E covers uniform policy and guidance for civilian attire aboard Navy installations in the region, and you may have been in violation.

Anyone wishing to come aboard Navy Region Southwest installations or facilities must abide by certain standards of dress, designed to ensure no discredit is reflected upon the Navy. The regulation says, in part, that “Profanity, pornography, or advocation of drug usage” is not allowed nor are “sexually provocative, suggestive or racial comments, vulgarities or displays of offensive language.” It goes on to say that “all personnel, whether active duty, dependents or retirees, are required to comply” with this requirement.

While you are correct that you have freedom to wear what you choose, you may not always wear what you choose wherever you like. For example, schools and restaurants have dress codes. So do Navy installations.

Question (June 2014): With news broadcast this week of over 150 teenagers being temporarily sheltered at NBVC with more to come, might there be an opportunity to volunteer with the agency overseeing these children? I speak fluent Spanish and would love to help out.

Answer: Thank you for your generous offer. We’ve had a great outpouring of support from the community since it was announced that Naval Base Ventura County would be one of the Department of Defense sites supporting the Department of Health and Human Services’ mission to care for unaccompanied children who have crossed the border into the United States. Your desire to help reflects credit on you and the community.

At this time, the federal agencies supporting these facilities are unable to accept donations or volunteers to assist the unaccompanied children program.

Several refugee resettlement non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the U.S. are accepting monetary donations and, in some cases, experienced volunteers to assist incoming refugee families, although not specifically unaccompanied children, in support of the effort of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program at the State Department.  Information, by state, for refugee resettlement NGOs can be found at the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center (RPC) Web page at http://www.wrapsnet.org/Home/RPAgencyContacts or the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) webpage at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/state-programs-annual-overview.

Question (March 2014): I have noticed that many people do not stop walking or driving during morning colors. On my way in to work some mornings, I am nearly rear-ended by people trying to zip around me as I pull to a stop out of respect for the flag ceremony. Am I wrong, or is everyone just ignoring proper flag etiquette?

Answer:  I have also noticed people ignoring proper etiquette during morning and evening colors. My guess is that people are simply unaware of proper etiquette for these longstanding traditions; others may not hear the national anthem or Taps over the base loudspeaker system.

All personnel are to render proper honors during the playing of morning and evening colors. Military personnel outdoors, when covered in uniform and within earshot, shall face the flag or in the direction of the music and salute during the playing of the national anthem. Military members not in uniform are to stand at attention, but do not need to salute. Others are to stand quietly until the completion of colors, signified by the bugle call “Carry On.”

During colors, vehicles within sight or hearing of colors shall be stopped. Drivers remain stopped until the conclusion of colors. Persons riding in vehicles shall remain seated.

As a reminder to all employees and residents, colors are observed onboard Naval Base Ventura County every morning at 8 a.m. and every evening at sunset.

Question (September 2013): Last month, I noticed the flags flying at half-staff. When I asked why, I was told it was because a retired general had passed away. I thought we only lowered the flag to honor fallen heroes or mark tragedies? Why lower it at a Navy base for a retired non-Navy officer?

Answer: The U.S. flag is flown at half-staff (or in our case, half-mast) for several very specific reasons, all laid out in detail in the U.S. Flag Code (36 USC Chapter 10, Article 175, section m).

At its core, the code grants the U.S. president and state or territorial governors the authority to order the flag to half-staff in their jurisdictions to mark the death of principle figures within their government. Certain key figures, such as sitting or former presidents, chiefs of staff, cabinet secretaries or Supreme Court justices have specific timelines regarding when the flag is lowered and for how long.

In the case you cited, retired Air Force Gen. David C. Jones was honored at his passing by flying the flag at half-staff, not because he was a general, but because Jones was the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, serving under President Jimmy Carter and President Ronald Reagan.

The president can order the flag to half-staff to mark tragedies or holidays as well. For example, the flag is always flown at half-staff the morning of Memorial Day and generally is ordered flown at half-staff for Police Officers Memorial Day in May. Last April, it flew at half-staff in honor of the victims of the attack during the Boston Marathon.

Question (February 2013): Good day Sir, I work onboard NSWC PHD, every morning there are two different morning colors being played, one will finish, and the other will continue totally out of synch. Have served 20+ years in the Navy and standing the 04-0800 OOD watch onboard a ship, we had to coordinate morning colors with one source for all ships on the water front. I there any way to have only one source for morning colors?

Answer: Thank you for bringing this to my attention. After looking into the situation, here’s what we discovered. The 31st SRG is responsible for playing the Colors at Port Hueneme. They are the only source for morning Colors, but when we asked other commands stationed at Port Hueneme, they mentioned hearing what you described, with anywhere from a 2 to 5-second delay reported. We checked with their audio technicians, who had this to say:

There are six sets of speakers with amplifiers distributed throughout Port Hueneme.  The music for colors is run over the phone lines to those speakers.  No matter where you stand you will probably hear colors from more than one speaker. The distance between your ears and the speakers is different wherever you stand on base and also depends on the wind, humidity, etc; so you might hear an echo.

Port Hueneme’s not a huge facility, but it is wide-spread enough to get this echo effect. I thank you again for bringing it up, and thank you for your years of military and civilian service.

Question (May 2012): I’m a government employee who has worked for 31 years at PHDNSWC. I love to fish and I know San Nicolas Island has a reputation for having the best fishing in California. I have never been to SNI before so I don’t know the steps to get to go out there. I know there are rooms to rent for the weekend, but I don’t have a POC at SNI who can sponsor me aboard. How do I get out there to go fishing?

Answer:  Thank you for taking the time to contact us and submit your suggestions using the online CO’s suggestion box, and thank you for your 31 years of service! Unfortunately, leisure travel to San Nicolas Island is not permitted at this time. SNI is a restricted area, and all personnel aboard must have mission-related reasons for being there. Although you are correct that non-barracks lodging is available, it is primarily used for visiting personnel not permanently housed on site. SNI is an environmentally sensitive area and part of the sea test range. Both considerations lead us to restrict travel to the location. Security and accountability are our main concerns, and allowing leisure travel just doesn’t fall in line with those goals. Our stance is one that we constantly monitor to ensure the best services and safety for our personnel and the resources – Navy, environmental, cultural and otherwise – at the site is priority number one.

Question (April 2012): Hello Capt. Vasquez, Welcome aboard!! Sir, we are a civilian family living here in Ventura County. We do have a brother in law who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army stationed out Camp Pendleton. We are blessed that he has been fortunate to return to us after 3 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the years, except for a couple years here recently, we were able to camp at the campground. I must say that it is the best campsite for RV camping. Wendy Eldredge that we use to make reservations with did a FANTASTIC job in running the campground. We would have a family member sponsor us. Then a couple years ago we weren’t able to make reservations due to the sponsor needed to be camping with us. Is this rule still in effect? We would love to be able to camp out at Mugu, of course without putting others out and when space is available. Additionally Sir, our family loves the ocean. My son surfs in the Pt. Mugu contest every year and has since its inception. Fred Morgan and Dan Alpern and their staff do a great job. Is there any way to receive / obtain a base pass to come on and go surfing? We don't want to put anyone out. Usually during the summer months between June and August the surf gets very good at the base. Maybe we are able to receive a 3 month pass? Please let us know at your earliest convenience your views and policy on this matter. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this letter.

Answer: Thank you for that warm welcome. I am pleased to hear about your brother-in-law’s service and his safe return. Our RV campsite is a Morale, Welfare & Recreation facility, and use of the site is restricted to authorized individuals, including active duty and retired military like your brother-in-law. We do allow authorized patrons to sponsor family and friends on base, but they must stay with their sponsors at all times. When your brother-in-law sponsored your family on base, he was taking responsibility for you, your safety and your security.

For those same reasons, we do not issue base passes for recreational activities like surfing or swimming. For visitors without a sponsor and without a DoD-issued ID card, the only reasonable alternative would be to perform background checks as we do employees. This is not a task we can accomplish affordably. I hope that you can understand these requirements and we look forward to seeing you at our open-base events, like the August 18-19 surf contest this year.

Question (February 2013): My wife and child took an AMC (Air Mobility Command) flight with a 17-hour layover on Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. The flight landed around 9 p.m., and all of the passengers were dropped off by the flightline, with no way to get anywhere. I called several cab companies who all said that cabs are not allowed on the installation. Thankfully some of our shipmates working in the area were able to give my family a ride. I am not sure what we would have done without them and cannot thank them enough. I hope there is a way to rectify this for future passengers, possibly with a duty driver or a taxi service being allowed on base?

Answer: I regret the confusion during your family’s recent visit to our installation. The air terminal at Naval Base Ventura County is not an Air Mobility Command terminal and as such does not provide services such as buses.

Unfortunately, we do not have the funding or authority to supply government transportation — including a duty driver — for transport to and from the terminal for non-duty travelers. I am glad, however, that our shipmates were able to assist your family. As you pointed out, walking from the terminal to lodging is a long walk.

Taxis are not barred from our installation, but they must apply for a RAPIDGate pass. This is not a cost the companies have been willing to absorb. I regret that this negatively impacted your family’s trip.

We will update the air terminal information on our installation home page as a supplement to AMC’s recommendation to call the air terminal in advance in an effort to reduce this sort of confusion for future travelers.

Question (October 2012): My neighbor has a big political bumper sticker on his car. I didn’t think members of the military are allowed to express their political opinions in that way?

Answer: Concerns like this come up quite often during election season. While it is true that the military does not participate in partisan politics, servicemembers and Department of Defense civilians are citizens of the United States. They are encouraged to participate in the political process, and they are permitted to display bumper stickers on their vehicles.

There are, however, restrictions to the political activities of military members and executive branch civilian employees.

DoD civilians’ restrictions are laid out in the Hatch Act. For example, while a DoD civilian can have bumper stickers on their cars, they can’t have the same sticker in their office. They can participate in political campaigns, but not in their official capacity and not during work hours or using work resources. Read more at http://www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm.

For military members, guidelines are a bit stricter and are detailed in DoD Directive 1344.10. They may participate in rallies as spectators, but not in uniform and they may not use their official military titles. Their activities must not be perceived to imply the support of the military. They are not allowed to participate in partisan campaigns or solicit their subordinates to do so.

One thing we want to encourage everyone to do is to vote. It is your right and privilege as a citizen of this nation to participate in the political process. If you haven’t already, please contact your Voting Assistance Officer for information about how and where to vote or how to submit an absentee ballot.


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