Military Tattoo Policy And Joining The Military
Another recurring line of questioning in future military personnel is the issue of tattoos. We live in an era that emphasizes the importance of expression that takes on the form of what previous generations considered mutilation. Whether or not that kind of accusation holds any weight is normally left up to the individual.
But for those joining the military, its a different story. Although there exists a long history between the military and tattoos, all U.S. military branches have standards about where, what, how much, and how many their members can have prior to
enlistment, and during service. These regulations ensure that all personnel maintain appearance standards for the given branch, much in the same way each branch maintains standards concerning uniforms and uniform appearance. In addition, as it applies to the content of the artwork, military regulation on tattoos is also in place to minimize the establishment of unnecessary divisions or senseless conflict between service members.
As is often the case, each branch has its own definition of what amount of ink is acceptable, as well as the content and location. During MEPS, recruits will be given a full physical to verify that he or she is fit for duty. During this time, you will be looked over by a military doctor, who will assess if your artwork violates any of the military tattoo policy.
According to Navy regulations, enlistment standards are based on four criteria,
Excellence In All We Do
Pursuing a career in the Air Force is admirable and will be incredibly rewarding, but it requires discipline even before you begin training. The Air Force maintains high standards, most of which are things within your control. If you aspire to be an Airman, ensure that you meet requirements now and make choices that will keep you eligible over time.
KEY THINGS TO CONSIDER
Military Entrance Processing Questions Answered
Here are some frequently asked questions that we have received, but as always, you should check questions yourself with a recruiter. To get in touch with a recruiter now.
Lying at MEPS
I had a misdemeanor, petty theft, and my Navy recruiter told me to lie. I was scared, and confused on why he wanted me to lie, though my offense wasn’t even disqualifying. My fine was not paid for when I signed, and I had no idea that it was illegal to be processed without fines being paid. I refuse to go into the USN with inaccurate papers. Is it too late to change my papers … what will happen afterward?
1. Need some clarification. Did you admit to the charge? If so and your fine just isn’t paid, go pay it. If you didn’t mention it, pay the fine and mention it when you ship.
Or you can pay your fine and divulge this to the recruiter. It may void your enlistment contract … and may require you to choose another rate. However, you don’t have to worry about when big brother will come knocking. And you will be in compliance. Peace of mind is everything.
Is asthma a disqualifying condition?
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Tattoos Brands And Piercings
Airmen are subject to strict requirements and restrictions pertaining to body modifications. If you plan to get a tattoo or other body modifications, carefully consider placement, size and content before you proceed.
Tattoos, brands or piercings anywhere on the body that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or of a nature that may bring discredit upon the Air Force, are prohibited both in and out of uniform. This includes modifications that are obscene or advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination. Even if rectified, excessive scarring resulting from tattoo removal may also be disqualifying.
Tattoos are not completely disqualifying, however. There are no size or area limitations for authorized tattoos on the chest , back, arms, and legs. Tattoos, brands, and body markings are prohibited on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips, and scalp. Hand tattoos are limited to one single-band ring tattoo, on one finger, on one hand.
Tattoos And Body Piercings
The Army 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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Air Force Tattoo Regulations
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.
What Kinds Of Tattoos Are Outright Banned
Per Marine Corps bulletin 1020 dates 29 October 2021:
Tattoos that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or that are of a nature to bring discredit upon the naval service, are prohibited. Examples include, but are not limited to, tattoos that are drug-related, gang-related, extremist, obscene or indecent, sexist, or racist.
You can read longer descriptions about type of banned content in MCBUL 1020.
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What Tattoos Are Not Allowed In The Army
As far as placement or location goes, we recommend the t-shirt test.
Throw on a t-shirt and stand in front of the mirror. Now, you cannot have any tattoos showing above the t-shirt collar line or anywhere on the neck, ear, face, scalp, etc.
This restriction also includes any inner-mouth or eyelid tattoos .
You cannot have any tattoos on your hands either .
The hand is defined as any location below the wrist bone. With this in mind, its best not to have any ink on your wrists at all.
As far as content of the tattoos, the Army prohibits anything that is:
These types of tattoos cannot be located anywhere on your body. And believe us, theyll check.
Of course, the terms above can be interpreted in different ways, so its ultimately up to your Recruiting Commander to make the call.
Also, if you have tattoos and eventually want to become an Officer or Warrant Officer, dont worry, theres still hope of moving up in rank.
You see, Commanders make recommendations for soldiers based on many considerations so you likely wont be rejected on account of your tattoos alone.
Finally, if you have a tattoo that you think will disqualify you from the Army, its worth a shot to check with the recruiters anyway.
You might get a waiver for, say, a tiny tattoo on your hand or something small behind your ear.
So dont count yourself out!
What About Tattoos After You Are Enlisted
Some recruits think they can enlist in the military and then get whatever tattoos they wish once they have completed training. This is false. Commanding officers are always reviewing their servicemembers, and people who get tattoos after joining are still subject to disciplinary action up to and including administrative separation.
While cosmetic tattoos are acceptable, they must mimic the natural appearance of the body. The most common illustration is getting an eyebrow tattoo in cases where you are losing your eyebrow hair for some reason. However, the cosmetic tattoo must mirror the natural color, shape, and size of the eyebrow.
Some people who get tattoos after they have enlisted find that the tattoos hurt their ability to proceed up through the ranks. When they are reviewed for promotion, they might find that their promotions are delayed until they visit a tattoo removal clinic.
Generally speaking, visits to a tattoo removal clinic will be on your own dimethe government will not pay for you to have a tattoo removed, nor will health insurance. Fortunately, we do offer special discounts for military recruits, active duty, and veterans its our way of saying, thank you for your service!
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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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Will Military Pay For Tattoo Removal
Tattoo Removal Through Tricare
Scope: The Army allowed Soldiers to enter into the service with various visible tattoos at one point. Tricare will not pay for the tattoo removal procedure, as it is considered a cosmetic surgery.
The main takeaways regarding the Army Tattoo Policy are:
- There is no limit to the number of tattoos you can have.
- You can NOT have tattoos on your wrists / hands, neck, or face.
- The only exception to this is a ring tattoo, one per hand.
- Sexist, racist, extremist, and indecent tattoos are NOT allowed.
What Are The Differences In The Piercing Policy For Women And Men
The only difference is the wear of earrings. Males may not wear earrings on duty, whether in or out of uniform. They also cannot wear them off duty on base.
Females performing official duty in civilian attire are limited to the same wear criteria when in uniform: i.e., a single small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced or clip earring per earlobe. The earrings must match and should fit tightly without extending below the earlobe.
Above Information Derived from AFI 36-2903 and the Air Force News Service
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Can I Join The Army With A Tattoo
One of the most common questions we get is Can I Join the Army if I have a Tattoo. This article answers that question and outlines what types of tattoos may keep you from joining the U.S. Army.
You will NEVER be allowed to enlist in the Regular Army, Army Reserves, or Army National Guard if you have any of the non-waivable disqualifying tattoos below. Depending on abundance of recruits, standards may be more strict than listed:
- Tattoos located on the head, face, neck, wrists, hands, or fingers
- Tattoos which are extreme, sexist, indecent, or racist
- Having more than four tattoos located below the knee or between the elbow and wrist
As part of efforts to maintain the professional appearance of the force, the Army dialed back the number, size and placement of tattoos in the March regulation.
Previously authorized tattoos were grandfathered in, but Soldiers hoping to become an officer had to get an exception to the policy.
The updated regulation takes into account that previously authorized tattoos should not prevent a Soldier from becoming an officer, but that candidates are to be evaluated based on the whole Soldier concept, or all characteristics of a Soldier.
Here is the latest policy on tattoos from Army Regulation 670-1 :
33. Tattoo, Branding, and Body Mutilation PolicyNote: This paragraph is punitive with regard to Soldiers. Violation by Soldiers may result in adverse administrative action and/or charges under the provisions of the UCMJ.
What Happens If A Soldier Is Caught With An Unauthorized Tattoo/refuses To Remove
According to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia Manual 670-1, there are procedures for handling unauthorized tattoos.
If a soldier has any tattoo or brand that is prohibited under the Army tattoo policy , he or she will receive a written notice from a commander regarding the violation.
Once the soldier receives the notice he or she has 15 days to make a decision.
The Army traditionally provides three options: A) appeal the decision of the commander, B) have the tattoo professionally removed, or C) keep the tattoo.
Tattoo policy appeals are handled by a commander at the O-6 level for a final determination.
Military personnel that violates the Army tattoo policy are responsible for any costs related to the removal of the tattoo.
Soldiers that elect to keep tattoo in violation of the policy will begin administrative separation proceedings in order to terminate his or her service.
The U.S. Army like every branch of the military has fairly strict grooming standards.
Men and women service members are both required to follow stern haircut requirements.
Additionally, men are not permitted to have beards in the Army though tightly regulated mustaches are authorized.
Body piercings are not allowed for male service members, while females can sport piercing with several restrictions.
Learn what all is authorized and not authorized regarding Army grooming standards.
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Understand The Regulations Before You Sign Up
All five military branches restrict tattoo content. Youre going to have to remove any tattoos based on drugs, sex, violence, or gang affiliation. Similarly, your ink cannot discriminate against sex, religion, or race. If your tattoo ticks people off, chances are its going to keep you out of the service, unless you get rid of it. Theres no point in whining over this. If you want to serve your country, youll be facing much bigger decisions, so get it done. Having offensive tattoos covered or removed is a small price to pay.
What Tattoos Are Not Allowed In The Coast Guard
Location. Location. Location.
Similar to other branches of the military, the Coast Guard has very specific rules regarding the placement or location of tattoos.
No tattoos or brands are authorized anywhere on the head, scalp, face, and neck.
Otherwise, as far as location of tattoos go, your body is your canvas.
As for content of individual or groups of tattoos, the Coast Guard is particular about what they authorize and what is non-negotiable.
A Coast Guardsman cannot wear any tattoo that promotes:
- Sexual explicitness
You can read all about how the Coast Guard defines the above terms in their official memo announcing the new tattoo policy change.
But before we move on, the Coast Guard does offer guidance in the form of an image collage as to what type of tattoo designs are not authorized .
Coasties are also not authorized to have any body mutilations, also known as intentional alterations and / or modifications to a members body .
Body Piercings are also prohibited, with the exception of women who may have small studded earrings.
As described in the Coast Guards latest uniform regulations, no piercing shall be made through the ear, nose, tongue, chin, eyebrow, or any other body part that would be visible while in any uniform.
This prohibition applies to male and female members alike and is specifically intended to limit the less than military appearance associated with vacant holes in the face and other exposed areas of the body.
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How Do I Apply For An Army Waiver
Applying for an Army waiver is as simple as requesting a form. However, it should be noted that the point of the waiver is for the applicant to prove they overcame a disqualifying issue that would otherwise prevent them from joining the Army. Once the waiver has been submitted, a comprehensive review will take place and it will be determined if the individual can join.
An Updated Approach To Tattoo Policy
Under new guidelines enacted during Iraq and Afghan combat in 2015, the seemingly arbitrary number of four tattoos on the arms and legs was replaced with a more detail oriented approach. Under the new policy, the number of tattoos isnt specified instead limits are focused on where the ink can be located and its subject matter.
The following graphic shows where tattoos are and are not accepted in the US Army in 2020.
On the visible part of the arm tattoos must be one inch below the elbow and tattoos cannot extend onto the wrist or hands. For upper arm pieces, tattoos must start two inches above the elbow.
Tattoos on the legs must be either two inches above or two inches below the knee, leaving the areas of skin on the knee untouched. As long as these placement rules are followed no number limit for tattoos is specified.
Tattoos on the back and torso are less restricted regarding size and placement as long as they dont pass the shirt collar and extend onto the neck.
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Can I Join The Army With Tattoos Are There Restrictions
Yes, you can join with tattoos, as long as they are not visible above your collar or below your cuff. The Army does not typically accept individuals with tattoos on their hands, wrists, face, or neck. Tattoos anywhere above the neckline or on the head, including in the mouth, ears, or eyelids, disqualifies a candidate. A tattoo waiver is available for candidates who have disqualifying tattoos. However, tattoos that are extremist, racist, sexist, or indecent are prohibited anywhere on a Soldiers body, without exception.