Army cracks down on tattoos

Tattooed soldiers will have to keep the ink off their sleeves as the U.S. Army rolls out new uniform policies governing tattoos.

The current uniform standards already prohibit troops from having tattoos on the face, neck and anywhere above their uniform collars. The new standards will also bar soldiers from having tattoos below the elbow or knee. The new policy will affect those wishing to enlist in the Army directly and those pursuing an officer position.

“When you look at someone in a business suit with full sleeves (of tattoos), you’re going to think differently of them versus someone without the full sleeves,” said Diane Moncrief, scholarship and enrollment officer for the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps. “In the military, appearance is everything.”

Michael Gray, a tattooed senior in LAS who served in Iraq from 2010-11, is currently pursuing an officer position.

“We used to have to shine our boots and press our uniforms, but we don’t have to do that now,” Gray said. “Higher command thinks it means we’re losing our professional image, so this is a way to maintain that.”

Tattooing is quite prevalent in the military, as found by a study published in 2000 by the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing. According to the study, 64 percent of its Army respondents entered the service with tattoos. Moncrief and Gray agree that tattoos are especially common among enlisted soldiers.

The current tattoo policy says that commanding officers cannot order current troops to remove a tattoo, but may encourage them to do so.

Gray questioned whether potential recruits would want to pay for tattoo removal for the chance to be enlisted.

“It seems to remove a lot of potential recruits unless they get it removed,” Gray said. “It shows commitment to the Army, but I don’t necessarily like (that part of the policy).”

However, Gray and Corey Maisch, freshman in Engineering and ROTC cadet, both acknowledge that those who enlist must abide by whatever policies higher-ups put in place.

“The military is voluntary, so what we sign up for, we’re agreeing to,” Masich said.

The changes to Army uniform standards are set to become official policy in 30 to 60 days, according to Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the Army. A representative for the Army could not be reached for comment.

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