The United States Army has paved the way for a new set of guidelines that other branches of the military will surely follow, or will they? I have mixed emotions on the new ruling and the ruling in general and curious where you stand on this "body art" issue.  

Actually, all branches of the military have had strict guidelines on tattoos for a long time. All branches do not allow any kind of sexist, racist, vulgar, anti-american, anti-social, gang related, extremest group or organization related tattoos, ever.  Those who do are subject to removal at their own expense; some branches won't even let you cover them with military issued clothing.

The new ruling to Army Regulation 670-1 is all but signed by Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, and it's raising eyebrows.  Under the new policy, new recruits will not be allowed to have tattoos that show below the elbows and knees or above the neckline. Current soldiers will be grandfathered in but all will have to sit down with their unit leaders and “self identify” each and every tattoo. Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy.

The Army says it's a matter of maintaining a uniform look and sacrificing for the sake of the force.  Here are the rules for other branches of the military, all very similar with the exception of below the elbows and knees.

  • Air Force - Tattoos/Brands anywhere on the body that are obscene, advocate sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination are prohibited in and out of uniform. Tattoos/brands that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or of a nature that tends to bring discredit upon the Air Force are prohibited in and out of uniform. Any member obtaining unauthorized tattoos will be required to remove them at their own expense. Using uniform items to cover unauthorized tattoos is not an option.
  • Navy - Four criteria have been issued to commanders to assist them in determining whether a tattoo, body art or brand should be permitted: content, location, size and whether the item is required for cosmetic purposes. Tattoos/body art/brands cannot be visible through the white uniform and cannot be on the head, face, neck or scalp regions. Items on the lower arm can be no larger than the wearer's hand, fingers closed.
  • Marine Corp - No Tattoos or brands on the head and neck. No sleeve Tattoos. (Those who had them before the ruling were grandfathered in)  No Half-sleeve or quarter sleeve tattoos that are visible to the eye when wearing standard PT Gear (T-shirt and shorts). This includes the legs below the knee.

Here is my deal.  Although I agree with our military not having visible tattoos of racist, sexist and hatred filled tattoos, I do not agree with telling them where they can have good tattoos. Tattoos of their families, pets, friends and memorials.  How do you tell someone who gets shot at everyday that the 9/11 Full Sleeve tattoo they have on their leg or arm is unacceptable.  Does it make them less of a soldier?  Do they not fight as hard?  I would think it would be a huge intimidation factor to the enemy as well.

Tattoos have been a part of the military since we have had a military, ink and needles.  I have seen thousands that people have literally seen others die for.  Personally, I could care less about full sleeves when done in good taste.  The Army has lost more soldiers in 2013 than all the other branches combined...who cares about a full sleeve tattoo.