By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Thien, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs
| April 21, 2016
(May 21, 2012) Sailors and Marines assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) visit the Al Fateh Islamic Center during a morale, welfare and recreation tour in Bahrain. Enterprise is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. () (Photo by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gregory White/Released)
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) released a revision to its theater-wide liberty policy April 12, emphasizing comprehensive assessments of all service members behaviors – on and off duty – prior to granting liberty in order to prevent adverse incidents.
The revision of the NAVCENT Operation Order regarding liberty directs units to be familiar with the past conduct of their personnel to effectively identify those likely to be involved in off-duty incidents and to implement proactive liberty risk measures where appropriate to prevent misconduct from occurring. The revision covers those deployed or on temporary duty to the region as well as those permanently assigned.
“We believe it’s critical for commands to understand the habits of their service members before placing them on liberty in this area of operations,” said Command Master Chief Petty Officer Scott Fleming, NAVCENT and U.S. 5th Fleet Command Master Chief. “The only way to do that is by taking a hard look at the previous performance of each person, not just off duty but on duty as well. If a Sailor repeatedly shows up for work late or can’t follow uniform standards or is in continuous conflict with Shipmates, there’s a good chance that same Sailor will have a hard time following rules or maintaining composure while on liberty.”
Fleming highlighted programs available to manage risk and to reward individuals whose professional and personal performance warrants greater liberty benefits.
“The liberty risk program can be used both preemptively and reactively, but beyond that commands should consider utilizing phased liberty privileges that increase gradually as individuals prove they are mature, understand the rules, and be counted on to act appropriately,” Fleming said. “Similar programs have had success in other areas; they give people a chance to become familiar with the environment and compel them to demonstrate a certain level of responsibility if they want expanded privileges.”
The liberty policy revision also adds additional guidance to the roles and responsibilities of liberty buddies.
“Liberty buddies are more than a token check in the block,” Fleming said. “They are charged with really looking out for those in their liberty party and stepping in decisively to stop improper conduct or to prevent shipmates from getting hurt. We expect liberty buddies to be aware of what the role actually means, and to understand that they can ultimately be held accountable if they fail to act in accordance with the guidance. No one is better positioned to put the brakes on destructive behavior than liberty buddies – they simply need the fortitude and character to do so.”
While no specific incident or trend prompted the revision, the liberty policy is indicative of NAVCENT’s strategic environment and the critical importance of serving as role models for conduct and respect at all times.
“We want service members to enjoy their time off and to enjoy the unique cultural opportunities in this region,” Fleming said. “I’m proud to say the vast majority of service members are fantastic ambassadors; they represent their commands and our country in exactly the manner we strive to achieve. However one individual or one incident can truly jeopardize our mission and our credibility. It’s imperative then that we meet the standard as individuals and that we apply measures as a team to prevent an unfortunate moment in time from having a permanent impact on our reputation as gracious guests.”