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Can You Have Tattoos In The Military

What Can You Do If Your Tattoo Doesnt Meet Military Standards

Can I have Tattoos in The Air Force? / United States Air Force

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What Air Force Tattoos Are Allowed

Well, for starters, Airmen can sport tattoos that are nearly 100% the size of their body.

As previously mentioned, the Air Force has lifted the 25% rule , and for good reason.

Recruiters were aware of the fact that nearly half of all millenials had a tattoo.

But what they quickly realized was that 1 in every 5 of the recruits who did have tattoos had tattoos that required review and were potentially disqualifying.

And the #1 disqualifier turned out to be the 25% rule.

Go figure.

Today, with that rule out the window, Airmen can have virtually any size tattoo, or grouping of tattoos, anywhere on their chest, back, arms, legs, and feet.

Ah, yes, the feet! Here is where the Air Force differs from other branches as well.

They allow tattoos on the feet below the ankle line.

In other words, Airmen can get inked up to their hearts content .

Sleeves anyone?

Its true, this means the USAF now allows sleeve tattoos full-sleeves or half-sleeves, or anything in-between is now perfectly acceptable.

Hand tattoos are technically allowed, but as mentioned, theyre limited to one ring tattoo on one hand only.

According to one news report, Current Airmen with existing hand tattoos that were authorized under the previous policy will be grandfathered in under the old policy standards.

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Who Has The Final Say On Appropriateness

Commanders and first sergeants are the first line of authority for making this determination. Body piercing is relatively straightforwarddon’t display it while in uniform, while performing official duty in civilian attire or on a military installation at any time. Tattoos are a bit more subjective, but this policy provides commanders guidelines to make the calls.

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Can You Join The Navy With Tattoos

Can you join the navy with tattoos? Tattoos are incredibly common amongst the main demographic of American citizens that the Navy recruit from, with estimates suggesting around 1 in 3 people who are between 18 and 25 have at least one tattoo.

Some studies suggest that number is even higher, including those getting multiple tattoos and in areas that would have been considered antisocial. In the past, due to a variety of reasons, tattoos made finding employment with the Navy difficult. Do tattoos show that the Navy man or Navywoman is a reliable and trustworthy member of society? Some people would say no tattoos make some unreliable and untrustworthy.

This is what all military branches believed up until recently. But it is very possible that you will be able to join the Navy today because of the changes that were made to recruitment policy in 2016. Now potential recruits can have pretty much any kind of tattoo they want as long as it doesnt fall under a very small list of examples that are still banned. The list is not exhaustive, however. If you are unsure, ask your recruiter.

Air Force Tattoo Regulations

Marine Corps tattoo policy 2020: Everything you need to ...

The Air Force is pretty lax when it comes to servicemembers with tattoos. Airmen have no restrictions as to the tattoo size.

The following tattoos are allowed:

  • Airmen are allowed a single ring tattoo on one finger, on one hand
  • Half or full sleeve tattoos
  • Feet tattoos

You will notice, the Air Force is currently the only branch that allows feet tattoos.

As far as tattoo donts in the Air Force, just like other branches, there cannot be any tattoos on your face, neck, head, lips, or eyelids.

Be sure to keep up with the latest on the Air Force tattoo policy as policies are always subject to change.

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The Marine Corps May Soon Allow Sleeve Tattoos Among Other Ink Policy Changes

If a leaked email is true, the Marine Corps may soon allow sleeve tattoos, an unlimited number of tattoos for officers, and allow future recruiters and drill instructors to sport visible ink.

An email with some details of a potential new policy was posted to the unofficial USMC Reddit page on Tuesday morning and since has been deleted.

Many Marines have long wanted a more relaxed tattoo policy, but citing professionalism and heritage the Corps has continued to enforce the strictest ink policy in the Department of Defense.

We are currently evaluating the tattoo policy and we will publish an update shortly, Maj. Jim Stenger confirmed to Marine Corps Times in a phone call Tuesday morning.

Stenger said the email on Reddit likely came from a Marine leader giving a heads up on possible changes coming to Marine Corps policy. He insisted that no decisions on the tattoo policy are final.

Thats all predecisional and nothing in there has been decided upon by the decision-makers in the process of approving any changes, he said.


The email posted on Reddit appeared to be sent by a sergeant major, with the crest in the upper left corner appearing to belong to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina.

The email alleged that most restrictions on size, number and placement of tattoos will be gone and instead the Marine Corps will place a greater emphasis on the actual content of the tattoos.

Commanders Can Issue Additional Guidance

There may be situations where the commander can restrict the wear of non-visible body ornaments. Those situations would include any body ornamentation that interferes with the performance of the members military duties.

The factors to be evaluated in making this determination include, but are not limited to: impairs the safe and effective operation of weapons, military equipment, or machinery poses a health or safety hazard to the wearer or others or interferes with the proper wear of special or protective clothing or equipment .

Installation or higher commanders may impose more restrictive standards for tattoos and body ornaments, on or off duty, in those locations where the Air Force-wide standards may not be adequate to address cultural sensitivities or mission requirements .

The Air Force has implemented a policy which prohibits body mutilation, such as split tongues.

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What Is Not Allowed

Despite the fact that the armys tattoo policy has been slightly relaxed in order to provide room for new recruits, there are still certain rules guiding soldiers in getting a tattoo.

Although soldiers are permitted to have tattoos, below are some things that are not allowed by the army as far as getting tattoos is concerned.

It is important to note that the prohibition of certain types of tattoo is not without cause.

The army is an organization and it is important for the unity of the Force to be reflected in the appearance of the soldiers.

Even though the unique personality of each Soldier is respected, drawing unnecessary attention to oneself in the army is not tolerated.

This is because the soldiers despite being individuals are considered to be a part of something bigger and the interest of the army must be put ahead of personal preferences.

Its on this basis that the army has a policy guiding getting tattooed while in active service.

Certain types of tattoo are not allowed in the army. Below is a list of the types of tattoos that are not allowed.

Options For Recruits Looking For A Fresh Start

Explaining the Army tattoo policy

As mentioned, tattoo rules vary by military branch. No matter branch you hope to join, tattoos on the face, neck, and hands are highly regulated . Covering up a face, neck, or hand tattoo will usually not be an option. Most recruits with these tattoos or other tattoos such as sleeve tattoos, tattoos with sexist or extremist messages, and other tattoos that radically alter their personal appearance will benefit from visiting a tattoo removal clinic.

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National Guard Tattoo Policy

The US National Guard is an important branch of the United States Armed Forces. The National Guard and Air National Guard are reserve forces, which means that those that serve do so on a part-time basis while also holding civilian jobs. Removery often sees clients who plan to join the National Guard but have tattoos that violate their tattoo policy.

Body Piercing While In Uniform

Members are prohibited from attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry, or ornamentation to or through the ear, nose, tongue, or any exposed body part .

The exception to this is that women are authorized to wear one small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced, or clip earring per earlobe and the earring worn in each earlobe must match. The earring should fit tightly without extending below the earlobeexcepting the connecting band on clip earrings.

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Navy Tattoo Ideas And Meanings

The U.S. Navy has a rich history when it comes to tattoos and their meanings.

For instance, you might see an old-timer sporting an anchor, a few swallows, a dagger with a rose, etc.

The younger generations are catching on to the meaning behind these, and are carrying the torch and heading for the tattoo parlor for the same tattoos.

Here are a few U.S. Navy tattoo ideas and their meanings:

Air Force Tattoo Policy

Military Tattoos

Update! Read our full article on the Air Force Tattoo Policy here.

The U.S. Air Force tattoo policy is next in our lineup. And the rules that Airmen must abide by might shock you.

Recently in 2016, following an AFI 33-360 required review, the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James communicated a shift away from their previous appearance and uniform policy.

It had been since 2010 that such matters were discussed.

And, according to Air Force Times, Senior leaders at the Air Staff level were reviewing the policies with the intent to continue their efforts of expanding the pool of eligible applicants for service, while still supporting the Air Force mission.

Secretary Deborah Lee James echoed these sentiments, saying

As part of our effort to attract and retain as many qualified airmen as possible, we periodically review our accessions policies As a next step in this evolution, we are opening the aperture on certain medical accession criteria and tattoos while taking into account our needs for worldwide deployability and our commitment to the profession of arms.

Alright, so how and where does this new policy deviate from the old policy?

Well dive into the details in just a moment.

But first, heres the lightning round that shows you the major changes that were officially announced and adopted February 1, 2017.

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Laser Tattoo Removal Can Give You A Fresh Start

If you are considering enlisting in any branch of the armed forces, and you have tattoos that you think could pose a problem, laser tattoo removal could be just what you need. Using the latest technology, we can work on your tattoo safely, quickly, and effectively.

We understand that it is a bummer to have a prohibited tattoo and want to enlist in the military. Fortunately, with the advanced technology available today, even a tattoo doesnt have to be forever and there is still a chance for you to enlist!

Your recruiter might have mentioned that you can get a waiver for your tattoo. While waivers are possible in some circumstances, you do not want to hang your entire career on the hope that you will get one. Whats more, even if you do get a waiver, you cannot be sure that the offending tattoo will not sabotage your career by hindering future promotions.

Keep in mind that tattoo removal can take some time, and may require more than one treatment session. As such, you should be diligent to plan accordingly when it comes to scheduling your tattoo removal treatment. Dont wait until the week before you are supposed to visit the Military Entrance Processing Station . Rather, schedule your consultation as soon as you can, and we can help you get started on the road to establishing your military career.

What Tattoos Are Not Allowed In The Army

There are two things to consider when gauging if a tattoo is allowed/appropriate in the U.S. Army:

A) Placement

B) Message of the tattoo

As far as placement we recommend using the t-shirt test.

Put on a t-shirt and stand in front of a mirror.

The Army does not allow any visible tattoos that show above the t-shirt collar line.

The same rule applies to the neck, face, ears, and scalp .

Hand tattoos are prohibited in the Army aside from the allowance of one ring tattoo per hand.

Otherwise, you will want to avoid placing tattoos on or below the wrist.

Secondly, the Army will analyze the appearance of the tattoo and its message.

The U.S. Army prohibits any tattoos that are racist, derogatory, sexist, extremist, or indecent.

These types of tattoos are not allowed regardless of where you place them on the body .

The Army grants commanding officers the responsibility to determine what types of tattoos are appropriate and which ones may be deemed offensive.

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What Tattoos Are Allowed In The Navy

As of April 2018, sailors can sport a single neck tattoo , as long as it isnt bigger than 1-inch in diameter.

Additionally, tattoos below the knee and elbow, no matter the size and quantity, are perfectly fine.

This means full sleeves are allowed. Hand and ring tattoos are permitted as well.

This new policy isnt much different from one released in 2016.

The only major difference is the addition of the small neck tattoo.

Before that, however, the Navys policy on tattoos hadnt been changed in over a decade.

One relatively new amendment to the Navys tattoo policy is that they now allow sailors with sleeve tattoos to attain rank of Recruit Training command and other Recruiting command positions.

So dont be too surprised if you see a full-sleeved, tattoo-loving sailor show up to your high school or college.

As far as cosmetic tattoos go, the Navy does allow cosmetic tattoos to correct certain medical conditions.

But this is on a case-by-case basis.

All in all, compared to the Marines, the Navy is incredibly generous regarding their tattoo policy.

What Tattoos Are Not Allowed In The Navy

The Army’s Tattoo Policy

Now, you might want an exhaustive list of exactly what types of tattoos the Navy does not accept, but its not that easy.

While there are guidelines there arent any set-in-stone rules that cover every possible scenario.

Because lets face it, the diversity of tattoos are only limited to the imagination, so new cases pop up all the time that the Navy must deal with on the fly.

With this in mind, its the commanding officer who gets the last say.

USAToday goes on to quote Stevens saying:

There are just so many variables when you look at tattoo language and tattoo art that its just not reasonable to try and identify a set list of what is and what isnt acceptable. This is one of those areas where we trust this senior leadership, our triads, to be able to look at something in its context, using the chain of command and having discussions amongst themselves as to whether something is appropriate or not.

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Can The Military Boost Recruitment By Allowing More Tattoos

Congress wants to know if tattoos and piercings are keeping too many potential recruits out of the military.

On Wednesday, during debate over the annual defense authorization bill draft, members of the House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved language which would mandate a new report on whether tattoos and body modification for potential enlistees have become a deterrent to meeting recruitment goals.

The research, which would be due in March 2022, would include the exact number of potential enlistees per year that are denied access to the military due to tattoos and body modifications and comparison of military rules to private-sector policies.


The measure passed without opposition. It still has to survive negotiations with the Senate later this year before it becomes law.

But the move recognizes changing cultural norms and emerging demographics of the country, and the challenges that presents to recruiters, according to committee members.

A 2015 Harris poll found that about half of millennials have at least one tattoo, and at least a third of all Americans have gotten one.

Rules regarding tattoos or piercings vary from service to service, but most prohibit offensive imagery or tattoos on the face, upper neck and hands.


Tattoos And Body Piercings

The ADF has a strict policy regarding personal appearance. The acceptability of tattoos and body piercings will be assessed on a case by case basis by Defence Force Recruiting.

If you are considering getting either please contact us for guidance as this may affect your application. Find out more about our tattoo and piercings policy in the FAQs section of these web pages.

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Eagle Globe And Anchor

The eagle, globe, and anchor is by far the most common Marine tattoo.

The eagle perched atop a globe is the official emblem and insignia of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The eagle symbolizes America, and is part of the emblem that associates the Marine Corps to the United States. The eagle is typically depicted carrying a banner in its beak with the Corps Moto, Semper Fidelis.

The globe symbolizes the worldwide commitment and the responsibility of the Marines to serve in any climate.

Youll notice the anchor too, which represents the Marines ties with the Navy .

Who wouldnt want a shredded bulldog dressed out in uniform tattooed on their arm?

The bulldog is another go-to Marine tattoo that symbolizes brute force and unrelenting authority.

Notice the USMC scrolled out in big, bold letters. And for bonus points, check out that eagle-perched-on-globe tattooed on the bulldogs arm.

Yes, the tattoo has a tattoo.

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