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Petty Officer 1st Class Geoffrey Lozanda takes a break from his bike ride to answer his phone at Yokosuka Naval Base on Thursday.
Petty Officer 1st Class Geoffrey Lozanda takes a break from his bike ride to answer his phone at Yokosuka Naval Base on Thursday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Driving while using a cell phone is illegal on every Navy installation worldwide. But what about chatting when you’re on foot? What about gabbing in uniform?

For sailors at Yokosuka Naval Base, the wisdom differs depending on what you’re wearing.

Cell phones in uniformSailors can wear a cell phone while in uniform, but walking and talking on it is generally discouraged unless you’re talking shop, said Yokosuka Naval Base commanding officer Capt. Greg Cornish. It’s largely a leadership call, though, he said.

“There’s nothing officially prohibiting talking on the cellular phone in uniform, but we tend to discourage it because it doesn’t project a crisp military image,” Cornish said. “A sailor may hear about it through the chain of command but it’s up to the leadership whether they want to make an issue out of it.”

It may seem like a minor infraction, but little unprofessional acts — like eating and smoking in the wrong place while in uniform — can add up, Cornish said.

“There are places to do all those things in uniform, but not while you’re walking down the street,” Cornish said. “It may not seem important to civilians, but we don’t want these things to accumulate.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Erickson said he he’s been in trouble with his boss a couple of times for talking on his cellular phone while in uniform. Though it made him feel like a kid, he said he understands the reason for it.

Navy firefighter Trevor Northam says he hasn’t noticed too many uniformed sailors walking and talking around the base since leadership started cracking down.

“It’s pretty easy to follow if you commit to it,” Northam said. “I think that’s reasonable. The main thing is that it’s unsafe.”

Cell phones in ‘civvies’Even if you’re not wearing a uniform, text messaging your buddies while walking down the street can be dangerous, Cornish said. No one, active-duty or otherwise, should be talking on their cell phones in crosswalks, he said.

“If you have your iPod in and you’re talking on the phone, you’re oblivious to what’s happening around you,” Cornish said. “Pedestrians have the right of way, but they also have to remember the lessons they learned in grade school: Look both ways and pay attention. We’ve had our share of near misses.”

Cellular phone use is also prohibited when walking through any of the security gates.

Cell phones on the roadDriving with a cellular phone is pretty cut and dried — don’t do it or you’ll get a ticket and two points on your license, Cornish said.

And enforcement efforts have been stepped up. About 75 people have gotten a ticket since January, he said.

“We have a small base and there is a lot of foot traffic, so we want to make sure people are paying attention at crosswalks,” Cornish said. “If you get a call while you’re on the road, signal and pull over or call them back.”

Still, the Navy isn’t as strict as the Air Force when it comes to driving and talking, he said.

“They take away your license for 30 days for a first offense,” Cornish said.

Other services' cell phone policies

Air Force

Uniformed airmen aren’t supposed to wear a cell phone unless they are conducting official business.

Army

Uniform rules state that one cell phone or pager can be worn on a soldier’s belt. Although there is no specific rule Army-wide on talking on cell phone while in uniform, individual base commanders have established their own policies.

Marine Corps

The Corps policy is currently under review, but for now Marines can use cell phones while in uniform. However, they are forbidden to walk while talking on the phone.

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