“The Army will now allow Soldiers to have one tattoo on each hand that does not exceed one inch in length,” the announcement from Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth said. “Soldiers also have the option to place one tattoo no larger than two inches on the back of their neck and one, inch-long tattoo behind each ear. Additionally, tattoos can be impressed between fingers as long as the designs cannot be seen when the fingers are closed.”
“We always review policy to keep the Army as an open option to as many people as possible who want to serve,” Maj. Gen. Doug Stitt, Director of Military Personnel Management, said in the same announcement. “This directive makes sense for currently serving Soldiers and allows a greater number of talented individuals the opportunity to serve now.”
Beyond that, the Government Accountability Office released a study this week calling for the U.S. military to clarify its policies when it comes to tattoos, noting that the policies are sometimes unclear.
“The House Committee on Armed Services and the military services have acknowledged recent challenges in recruiting, which they have attributed to a number of social and economic factors,” the GAO report said. “Tattoo prevalence among American youth has increased, and Congress has expressed interest in the effect the armed forces’ tattoo policies have on recruitment and retention.”
This led to a provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 calling for a review of the tattoo policies.
“Most armed forces allow waivers (i.e., exceptions) for certain unauthorized tattoos, usually related to their size or location, for recruits and service members. Although each of the armed forces allows waivers for certain tattoo restrictions for recruits, the policies do not always mention or provide clear guidance on the requirements for these waivers. In addition, each armed force, except for the Navy, allows waivers for certain tattoo restrictions for service members, but their respective policies generally do not document this possibility clearly,” the report said.
“Clear guidance on waivers for unauthorized tattoos would provide consistent information about requirements for waiver requests and conditions for approval. This could clarify whether tattoo prevalence affects future or continued military service.”
The report added that all of the armed forces prohibit tattoos that are of a racist or sexist nature, that relate to drugs or gangs, or that are “prejudicial to good order and discipline, or that are of a nature to bring discredit to their service.” Such markings are also not allowed on the head or the face.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.