The U.S. Army and tattoos have a long and often dramatic history. In 1846, Martin Hildebrandt opened a tattoo parlor in New York City, offering his services to Soldiers and Sailors from both sides of the civil war. Inked Veterans returning from World War II, stimulated the growth of tattoos in popular culture.
Although the times have changed, the military’s love affair with tattoos has not. Today, it seems, you couldn’t throw a rock into an Army formation without hitting a Soldier with at least one tattoo. – Tattoos and the Army: a long and colorful tradition.
There’s a lot of traffic going around about a new tattoo policy being proposed by SMA Chandler, after speaking to troops in eastern Afghanistan. Josh Smith, of the Stars and Stripes reports that Secretary of the Army John McHugh has approved, but not yet signed, a change to the Army’s appearance regulations that would ban tattoos from the forearm, below the knee, or above the neckline. The Army will also require the removal of offensive tattoos, Smith reports,
Current soldiers may be grandfathered in, but all soldiers will still be barred from having any tattoos that are racist, sexist, or extremist.
Once the rules are implemented, soldiers will sit down with their unit leaders and “self identify” each tattoo. Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy, [Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler] said.
While some soldiers at the meeting asked whether the Army will ever allow more visible tattoos, Chandler said it is a matter of maintaining a uniform look and sacrificing for the sake of the force. When a soldier gets a tattoo that contains an curse word on the side of his neck, “I question ‘Why there?’ Are you trying to stand out?” Chandler said. He said the Army wants soldiers to stand out, but because of their achievements, not because of the way they look.
This is quite different from the current policy… Currently Commanders cannot order the removal of offensive tattoos, but are expected to counsel Soldiers and afford them the opportunity to seek medical advice about tattoo removal.
FYI, here’s the current tattoo policy…