Army to issue new guidelines on tattoos

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(CNN) — In this day and age, tattoos have become commonplace. About 40% of Millennials — the demographic 20-somethings are lumped into — have tattoos, and when it comes to the military, tattoos are often seen as a rich tradition used to honor achievements and lives lost.

According to some Army top brass, however, the culture of the tattooed soldier may soon change.

Sgt Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler visited troops in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, over the weekend, and advised them that stricter rules for grooming and appearance were probably coming down the line in the near future. The new guidelines will include specific rules for tattoos.

According to Stars and Stripes, a publication that reports on the U.S. military, Chandler said new recruits may not have tattoos “that show below the elbows and knees or above the neckline.”

There may be other changes pertaining to specific grooming and appearance regulations, such as body piercings and makeup, but Chandler’s remarks only covered tattoos, according to Stars and Stripes, which says it had a reporter at the announcement.

Lt. Col. Alayne Conway, a public affairs officer for the Army, told HLN that the branch is trying to refrain from comments on the policy until it has been put into place. “We don’t want to get ahead of the policy review until it’s gone final,” she said. According to Chandler’s Afghanistan announcement, the changes could happen in the next 30 to 60 days.

In an emailed statement, Conway also said the Army is still looking at the new apparel rule. “The Army is conducting final review of the forthcoming uniform policy — Army Regulation 670-1 [the total policy applying to the wear and appearance of the Army uniform] prior to its implementation.”

For soldiers currently serving, “Tattoos or brands that are indecent, sexist or racist are not authorized on any location of the body [and] are prohibited. Tattoos or brands on the head or face are prohibited. These restrictions have been in place since 2006.”

In discussing the potential tattoo policy changes in Afghanistan, Chandler said that while soldiers currently serving will be “grandfathered in,” soldiers in violation of the new rules at the time of their recruitment will have to get the offending marks lasered off in order to serve, and must pay for the procedure themselves.

News of these potential new guidelines seems to have stirred up some discontent in the Army community.

Stars and Stripes reporter Josh Smith told NPR he talked to soldiers on the bases where Chandler made his announcement, and many were “not happy” with the new rules. Other military blogs have expressed similar dissatisfaction with the change, and social media sites are overflowing with opinions, which range from calling the move “beyond stupid” to defending it as “making the Army a little less gross.”

Others point out that calling these tattoo guidelines “new” may be a bit misleading. As the Army statement indicates, the Army’s current, more lenient tattoo policies were implemented in 2006 in order to open up recruitment. Prior to that time, a policy similar to Chandler’s announced policy was in place.

The Daily Beast connects the Army’s stricter tattoo policy to an inverse cause; instead of increasing recruitment, the Army is set to reduce its numbers as conflicts overseas wane.

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