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Military Branches That Allow Tattoos

Tattoo Removal For Military Service Members

Army tattoo waivers

If you are considering a career in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or even the Coast Guard, you need to know about their restrictions on tattoos. Each branch of the armed forces differs in what it will allow, but all of them have one thing in common: if you have certain kinds of tattoos, or tattoos that cover too much of your body, you will not be allowed to enlist. Whats more, even if your tattoos are within the range of what is permissible, they may end up hindering your ability to progress and be promoted beyond a certain rank.

Because of this, if you are looking for a fresh start so you can begin an active duty career, you might want to consider laser tattoo removal. While other options do exist in certain circumstancessuch as simply covering the offending tattoo with something that complies with the existing regulationslaser tattoo removal is great option to help get you eligible to enlist.

Allowed Air Force Tattoos

Although air force has already lifted the 25 percent rule for a good reason, there is a need for you to know what body parts are allowed to get inked. Knowing the policies may save you from potential disqualification if you intend to apply to air force soon.

The good news is that airmen can now virtually have a tattoo of any size anywhere on the legs, feet, and arms. Not only this, tattooing full or half sleeves arms are perfectly and technically allowed on both hands. If you have an existing tattoo on your hands, they were authorized and assessed under the new policy standards.

Military Tattoos In Pacific Beach San Diego

The art of tattooing is far older than most people realize. In fact, tattooing is an ancient custom that dates back to the origins of our species and, throughout human history, it has been practiced by most cultures.

Even the Catholic Church, who has historically opposed the art of marking the skin, allowed Crusader Knights to tattoo the Holy Cross on their bodies so that they could be identified as Christians and given a Christian burial.

And while today the tattoo has been adopted by the rich and famous, Tattoo Culture is rich and very complex. Today we are going to delve a bit deeper into the world of one the Tattoo Worlds oldest traditions: The Military Tattoo

Military Traditional Eagle

Military Tradition

Military Tattoo tradition originated during the American Civil War, with soldiers of both sides often getting tattoos to signal their loyalty to their respective causes. Since the 19th century, each war has inspired its own set of tattoos amongst the ranks.

Military tattoos have become an important part of military service and today each branch of the military has its own rules, regulations, and traditions concerning tattoos.

While Gung-Ho military enthusiasts absolutely love to get tatted up with military designs, tons of people from around the world do so as well.

Most military tattoos will have very clear elements that make them extremely identifiable such as helmets, skulls, rifles, grenades, tanks, inspirational quotes, and famous sayings related to war.

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Can You Have Neck/face/hand Tattoos In The Army

No, the Army does not allow tattoos on the face, neck, or hands.

The only exception is a small ring tattoo that can exist on each hand .

Face and neck tattoos are highly discouraged in the U.S. Army.

There are a few waivers that are granted each year by Army recruiters if the officer determines the tattoo is not too distracting.

Tattoos And Military Policy

Military tattoo: photo num 5610

The United States military policies concerning tattoos have evolved over the years and vary across military branches. In recent years, these policies have been relaxed to increase the number of eligible recruits. But one thing that hasnt changed is soldiers and recruits are not allowed to have certain types of tattoos. Extremist, indecent, racist and sexist tattoos are not allowed.

Policies regarding the placement of tattoos vary among the branches. The strictest, the Marines do not allow sleeves. While the Army does not allow tattoos on:

  • Your head
  • Your neck above the t-shirt line
  • Inside your eyelids, mouth or ears
  • Your wrists
  • Your hands

The military also has policies in place regarding getting tattoos while on active duty. Meeting the appearance standards prior to joining the military is just as important as abiding by them during your service in the military. The military is concerned about banned tattoos before and after enlisting. If the military finds your tattoo inappropriate concerning their policy you will likely face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Furthermore, the military could require you to remove the tattoo if you want to remain on active duty.

In any case, If you or someone you know has a tattoo they need to be removed for military purposes Delete Tattoo Removal in Phoenix & Chandler is able to help! Laser tattoo removal is one way to meet military regulations as they concern your tattoos!

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Air Force Amendments In Tattoo Policy


  • 3 Final Thoughts
  • Air force will soon be more colorful with stylish tattoos as the policy concerning tattoos has been amended. Previously, air force candidates were allowed to have tattoos only on certain parts of their body, which shouldnt be more than 25% of the body. The new policy has gone into effect from Feb 1, 2017 and it is considered a step toward making tattooing policy more lenient.

    The Air force Secretary Deborah Lee James communicated this shift from previous policies after reviewing them. The amendment aims to broaden the pool of opportunities for eligible applicants looking to join the service. Past policies on tattooing restricted a lot of youngsters who wanted to support the air force mission and show their love for the country.

    That is what makes knowing the tattoo policy, along with the latest amendments substantially important.

    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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    Popeye The Sailor Man

    While Popeye is a Sailor Man, and therefore a card-carrying member of the good ol U.S. Navy, hes a go-to for Coast Guardsmen who are looking for a great tattoo.

    Dont be too surprised if you come across loads of Popeye-themed tattoos on Coasties young and old.

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    Coast Guard Tattoo Ideas And Meanings

    Tattoos Before Joining The Military – You’re Ruining Your Life..

    The USCGs official flag shows a seal of an eagle with the words Semper Paratus underneath it.

    This is always a popular tattoo for Coast Guardsman. Similar to the Marines Semper Fi , Semper Paratus means Always Ready.

    And thats exactly what the Coast Guard is all about.

    Preparing men and women to be ready at a moments notice to govern and bring peace to the coast and sea.

    Here are a few of these tattoos, and other common Coast Guard tattoos.

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    Space Force Tattoo Regulations

    As of the writing of this article, we were unable to locate a tattoo policy for the U.S. Space Force, the sixth and newest branch of the military.

    Even though we found guidance on Space Force uniforms and insignia, we advise you to speak with a recruiter and become familiar with the Air Force tattoo policy as the Space Force is situated within the Air Force.

    Tattoos And The Military

    Tattoos and the military have been paired since the days of the Roman army. Roman soldiers would receive tattoos of dots marking their membership in the army and in particular units. The sleazy side of tattoos goes back that far, too. For many Romans, tattoos were a mark worn by slaves and criminals rather than by proud soldiers.

    The practice remained popular in Christian Europe until the eighth century C.E, when the Roman Catholic Church outlawed tattooing. In the 1700s, however, English sailors encountered foreign cultures that practiced tattooing and they began getting their own tats. The practice soon spread to America. A tattoo of a regimental insignia not only encouraged group bonding, it helped identify bodies in days before dog tags and DNA identification.

    Tattoos on military members remained a thing, but the Pentagon hasn’t always been comfortable with that. The Coast Guard, for instance, wants its members to present a sharp, professional military appearance, while allowing for personal expression through skin art. The same is true of the other branches: tattoos are tolerated, but they mustn’t be excessive.

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    Us Army Tattoo Policy Prior To 2015

    In 2015 the US Army revised its existing policy regarding the number of tattoos a soldier can have on their arms and legs. Prior to this update in regulations soldiers were limited to four tattoos below the knee or elbow, with none exceeding the size of the palm of the hand.

    While the Armed Forces still prioritize higher standards of grooming and cleanliness, officials also realized the need to adapt to the changing world and evolving attitudes regarding tattoos. With nearly half of all millennials getting tattooed, something had to change.

    According to Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, Society is changing its view of tattoos, and we have to change along with that. It makes sense. Soldiers have grown up in an era when tattoos are much more acceptable and we have to change along with that.

    Consider A Military Tattoo Carefully

    Army Tattoos

    While you may want to show your pride in your military service with a military tattoo, consider carefully before you get one if you are still in uniform. Regulations may change at any time, and existing tattoos may not be grandfathered in. Once you have left active service, however, let your colors show proudly with any military style tattoo.

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    Us Army Tattoo Policy: What’s Not Allowed

    The Army’s policy prohibits tattoos or brands that might be considered offensive, regardless of where they appear on the body. Specifically, the regulations forbid:

    • Extremist tattoos. According to the regulations, these are tattoos or brands “affiliated with, depicting, or symbolizing extremist philosophies, organizations, or activities.” This would include tattoos that: feature philosophies, groups or activities that promote racial or gender intolerance encourage discrimination based on numerous factors, including race, gender and religion advocate violence or “other unlawful means of depriving individual rights under the U.S. Constitution, and Federal or State law.”
    • Indecent tattoos. These include tattoos or brands that are “grossly offensive to modesty, decency, propriety, or professionalism.” The Army’s regulations do not provide examples of tattoos that would fall under these descriptions.
    • Sexist tattoos. These include tattoos and brands that “advocate a philosophy that degrades or demeans a person based on gender,” according to the regulations.
    • Racist tattoos. Tattoos or brands that “advocate a philosophy that degrades or demeans a person based on race, ethnicity, or national origin” are not allowed.

    Will Military Pay For Tattoo Removal

    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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    Different Branches Similar Policies

    For the most part the regulations concerning tattoos are fairly similar from one military branch to another, with some minor differences.

    Most notably, the US Navy has a more relaxed approach regarding size and placement of tattoos on the arms and legs. In fact, thanks to recent changes, sailors with full sleeve ink are now eligible for placement at Recruiting Training Command and Recruitment Command positions.

    The Navy also now permits sailors one neck tattoo, as long as it doesnt exceed one inch in diameter, and hand tattoos remain on the table. Given the historical significance of tattoos in the navy this relaxed stance isnt surprising.

    Conversely, the US Marine Corps is more strict than Army policy. Marines are only allowed four visible tattoos outside of their physical training uniform of crew neck t-shirt and shorts, none of which can exceed the size of the palm of the hand. Tattoos on the back and torso that are obscured by this uniform are unrestricted regarding size, placement and number.

    All branches of the United States Armed Forces follow the same guidelines prohibiting racist, sexist, extremist and offensive designs.

    What Happens If A Soldier Disobeys The Army Tattoo Policy

    Army tattoo policy becomes more lenient

    As stated earlier in the article, any member of the army that defies the Army Tattoo Policy will be punished according to the law of the Army.

    Heres a bit of what the disciplinary procedure entails for any soldier that defaults:

    First, its important to note that soldiers are advised to talk with the head of their units before getting a new tattoo, this is to ensure that they dont get any tattoo that contradicts the tattoo policy of the army.

    Secondly, soldiers who had a tattoo before being enlisted into the army will not be punished because chances are that the existing tattoos dont defy the armys policy in any way.

    If however the soldier adds or edits the tattoo and changes it to anything that violates the policy, then he will be punished. Depending on the gravity of the offense, the punishment may just be a reprimand or a query.

    But if the tattoo out rightly violates the army tattoo policy, the commander will first counsel the defaulting soldier of the existing tattoo rule.

    If the military has zero tolerance for the tattoo that the soldier has, he will be ordered to have it removed.

    The cost of removing or erasing the tattoo wont be paid by the military unlike other health bills, it will be paid for by the soldier from his pocket, and this on its own is a disciplinary action.

    Most often, removal of the tattoo is mandatory if the tattoo is contrary to the army tattoo policy and if the soldier wishes to remain in active service in the army.

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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.

    Tattoos & Military Regulations: Do You Need To Remove That Tattoo

    If joining the military has been your lifes ambition, you might want to consider staying away from tattoo parlors, or at the very least, limiting the sort of tattoos you will be getting and their placement. If this advice comes too late, you should have any controversial tattoo or any tattoo on your neck, head or hands removed before approaching a recruiting office.A Right of PassageGetting a tattoo is a rite-of-passage for many young people turning eighteen. And plenty of individuals sport tattoos given to them by friends while they were still minors. Because the cohesion of a military unit is of utmost importance, all branches of the military have policies against divisive tattoos. Gang affiliations or extremist group symbols are not allowed.

    Military Tattoo Policy

    In some branches of the service, there is a policy where personnel who had the tattoos before the regulations went into effect are grandfathered, basically allowed to keep it. Though these military personnel will be able to keep their tattoos, they may very well find their futures more limited than those without these types of tattoo. For instance, in the marines, an enlisted man who has a tattoo sleeve will no longer be considered for duties such as recruiting.

    Tattoos which promote violence, lawlessness, and/or obscenity are just a few of the marks that will keep you out of the Coast Guard. You will not be considered qualified to join the Coast Guard if your tattoos do not meet regulations.

    Coast Guard

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    Coast Guard Tattoo Regulations

    In the Coast Guard, you can have full sleeve and half-sleeve tattoos, full back and chest tattoos, and tattoos elsewhere on your body, including your legs.

    Members of the Coast Guard arent restricted at all when it comes to tattoo size or percentage of coverage. However, any branding cant be larger than a 4-inch by 4-inch area.


    • No tattoo can be visible above the Coast Guard crew neck t-shirt.
    • You can have one single band ring tattoo on each hand.
    • You can also have a finger tattoo that can run the length between the first and second knuckle. You can also have one small hand tattoo, per hand, between the wrist and first knuckle, but it cannot extend one inch in any dimension.
    • The Coast Guard also allows Ultraviolet or black light tattoos. The restrictions on these are the same as for regular tattoos.

    As far as donts, the Coast Guard also prohibits the tattoos listed above. Other than that, you have free rein to use your body as a canvas.

    For more details on the Coast Guards policy on tattoos, review its memo on uniform regulations and visit its website.

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