What Is The Army Recruiting Tattoo Policy For 2013

Q: Greetings Sergeant! Can you tell me what the current Army policy is concerning tattoos. I have several tattoos, and I want to make sure that I’m qualified to enlist. Thanks for your time, and I appreciate what your doing here.

A: The Army’s Tattoo Policy was recently updated in November 2012. The new policy provides the following guidance on tattoos:

Tattoos or brands anywhere on the head, face, and neck above the Army
Service Uniform (ASU) collar are prohibited.

b.  Existing tattoos or brands on the hands or neck below the ASU collar
that are NOT extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist, are allowed.
Initial entry determination will be made according to current guidance.

c.  Tattoos or brands that are extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist are
prohibited, regardless of location on the body, as they are prejudicial
to good order and discipline within units.  This includes body mutilation
and ornamentation.  (Tongue splitting or forking, facial ornamentation
and gauging of the ear lobes)

d.  Extremist tattoos or brands are those affiliated with, depicting, or
symbolizing extremist philosophies, organizations, or activities.
Extremist philosophies, organizations, and activities are those which
advocate racial, gender or ethnic hatred or intolerance; advocate,
create, or engage in illegal discrimination based on race, color, gender,
ethnicity, religion, or national origin; or advocate violence or other
unlawful means of depriving individual rights under the U.S.
Constitution, Federal, or State law.

e.  Indecent tattoos or brands are those that are grossly offensive to
modesty, decency, or propriety; shock the moral sense because of their
vulgar, filthy, or disgusting nature or tendency to incite lustful
thought; or tend reasonably to corrupt morals or incite libidinous

f.  Sexist tattoos or brands are those that advocate a philosophy that
degrades or demeans a person based on gender, but that may not meet the
same definition of “indecent.”

g.  Racist tattoos or brands are those that advocate a philosophy that
degrades or demeans a person based on race, ethnicity, or national

Since, you currently have tattoos your Recruiter will be required to complete a Tattoo Screening Form. On this form you will list the location of the tattoo, and provide a detailed description. The Recruiter will make a determination. Anything questionable will be required to be forwarded through his/her chain of command. The Chain of Command will review UF 1241, and conduct a Tattoo Review, to determine your eligibility.

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  1. Reply Thomas_More June 25, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    It’s about damn time these little exhibitionistic displays be regulated (I am retired military) A generation so self-absorbed that they find it necessary to emblazon their bodies with “art” seems to have forgotten the thousands of years that western civilization has struggled to pull itself our of the slime of our savage past (heck, why not put bones in your noses and stretch your necks…oops, some of you do). A limited number of tasteful tattoos is tolerable, but the extreme (sleeves, violent or sexual scenes) versions say more about the bearer than the “art” itself. As my old psychopathology professor use to say, “tattoos are the bumper stickers of the personality”. Yes, indeed they are.

  2. Reply Laura September 26, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Considering 1 in 3 U.S. adults under 40 has at least 1 tattoo, it seems the military’s rule changes would alienate a lot of people from their core pool of candidates. It’s a shame, but The Studio at Painful Pleasures is here to help those who want to serve and protect our country. We’d be honored to offer a special laser tattoo removal discount to those current and prospective military personnel who want to remove a problematic tattoo. If you live in the MD/VA/DC area and want to schedule a consultation, call us at 410-712-0145 or email us at thestudio@painfulpleasures.com.

  3. Reply mariano September 3, 2013 at 7:14 am

    i have a tattoo on my neck of the Arizona flag. can i get a waiver or is this prohibited?

  4. Reply PFC Wide May 9, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Hi, I am a current National Guard soldier who has been released to go active duty but my recruiter is running a tattoo form. I have a tattoo on my neck but it is below my collar but i also have three crowns on me. He told me that the crowns would be a problem because they could be gang affiliated. I have never been in a gang in my life but each crown is a 5 point crown which he says represents a certain gang. One is a cross with a crown on top of it and it is a RIP for my cousin who died. One is a crown that has the word Loyalty under it and he other is my initials with wings and a crown on top of the wing but this is the one on my neck that you cant see. what are my chances??

    • Reply Sergeant Washington May 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      It’s totally up to the interpretation of the Officer conducting the review.

  5. Reply James May 8, 2013 at 9:21 am

    How do recruits get approval of questionable tattoos only to arrive at meps or basic and get sent home despite having waivers and been approved in the earlier stages of the recruiting process? Basically, how is a recruiter/commander allowed to let someone through only to have them sent home later for something that was approved with supporting paper work and everything?

  6. Reply izzy32533@gmail.com May 1, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I have a small Confederate flag on my chest my recruiters chain of command denied me saying its raciest. I passed everything thing at maps. .please help

  7. Reply Kevin DeVos April 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Sir, as a former LA Recruiting Bn Waivers NCO, I advised recruiters to forward me a picture and a sketch of all tattoos with overall dimensions indicated to run a Bn level tattoo review, it takes no more than 24 hours (on a non-EOM day) to generate a letter, get it signed by the Bn XO or BC, scan it in and email it back to the Recruiter to put in his record to process. These days there has been some excellent streamligning in the process so it has possibly been improved. The worse thing my Recruiters would do is “assume” all was good to go, it would always bite them in the behind and damage the reputation of the Recruiter and overall, the Army. The Station Commander should be dirrectly involved in your tattoo review, ensure he/she is aware of your tattoos. Good luck and do great things.

    • Reply Sergeant Washington April 9, 2013 at 3:48 pm


      Thanks for the clarificaiton! Feel free to contact me if there’s anything else you would like to bring us up to speed on.

      • Reply Jessii Rubinstein January 15, 2014 at 7:15 pm

        I just now ran across this page. Excuse my late question. I have Athena. On my neck. The Greek goddess . She ends just under my jaw line. Only on one side of my neck. I want to join the National Guard. Will I have trouble regarding this tattoo.

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