Army Tattoo Policy: What You Should Know

It just seems natural that when you meet an Army Soldier that you expect to see at least one tattoo if not more when they are wearing a t-shirt, but odds were they were not an officer…not even a non-commissioned officer. Well, the times are changing. It seems they should because when you walk down any given street in the United States, you will notice tattoos have become nearly a majority wear instead of the minority. As a matter of fact, The Harris Poll determined that 1 out every 5 Americans have at least 1 tattoo.

The previous Army tattoo policy was that a Soldier could have no more than 4 visible tattoos below the elbow or knee, and they had to be smaller than the tattoo wearer’s hand. Any bands could not be more than 2 inches wide. Any Soldier who had any tattoos that broke that could not be commissioned. The fact was, I would have never had a chance at a commission due to the tattoo I received when I was 15 years old. With enlistments at an all-time low, many recruiters believe the tattoo rules were a huge factor.

Dan Dailey who is the Sergeant Major of the Army visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord and did something that many top commanders have never done…he asked Soldier’s opinions about the tattoo regulations. After finding a resounding negative response, he took the findings back and the Army has new tattoo regulations.

In today’s post, we are going to look at Army Tattoo Policy: what you should know. The complete policy can be researched by reading Army Regulation 670-1: Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia.

How Many Tattoos Can A Soldier Now Have?

It is now Army policy that a Soldier can have essentially as many tattoos as they want as long as their full dress uniform hides them all. That means if a person wants “sleeve” tattoos, they are allowed as long as they do not go past their wrist. Tattoos can be on legs, back and chest if a Soldier so desires.

Where Cannot A Soldier Have Tattoos?

Head and neck tattoos are still disallowed. Hand tattoos are not acceptable, but there is one exception…one ring tattoo is allowed. Any Soldiers who previously had neck tattoos will be grandfathered in. For those who have head tattoos, you may want to find a job elsewhere, if you can find someone that will hire you.

Unacceptable Tattoos

While the Army has relaxed its stand on tattoos, there are types of tattoos that will not be accepted. Tattoos that are of a sexist, racist or derogatory nature will not be accepted.

Officer Commissions

This was one of the primary issues with previous tattoo policies. Instead of looking at a Soldier’s military record and their loyalty, they just said no because the Soldier had one or more tattoos. Tattoos are no longer supposed to be used against a Soldier when being considered for a commission. If a commander recommends a Soldier for a commission, even if they have tattoos, they will be considered in a complete way.

Final Thoughts

I must say that this is one move the Army made that I fully agree with. The Army needs discipline, but tattoos have always been something the public expects to see on a Soldier.

What are your thoughts and opinions? Do you agree with this decision? Do you consider a person with a tattoo as someone that would not make a good leader?

If you were turned away from enlisting at one time because of one or more tattoos, you may want to revisit the recruiting office, unless you have a tattoo on your forehead.

I will mention at the end of this article….if you don’t have a tattoo and you are considering getting one, think it through hard…it will be with you your whole life.

Thank you for visiting and have a great day.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Army Tattoo Policy: What You Should Know”

  1. I understand why there has to be a policy for tattoos. The last thing you want is someone with tons of hand, neck and facial tattoos wearing a uniform. No, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a good person and wouldn’t be a good Soldier. They simply wouldn’t look professional when wearing a uniform.

    I understand that lots of people have tattoos in modern times. That’s perfectly fine. As long as they are discreet, and they aren’t vulgar, I don’t see any problem with it.

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