Tattoos have once again become the topic of controversy throughout the U.S. military after new grooming standards for the Army were apparently leaked online.
The updated Army Regulation 670-1 includes new policies on uniform wear, fingernail polish and hair standards, but the tattoo policy is getting the most buzz.
In San Diego, Esteban Baena with Lucky’s Tattoo Parlor said nine out of ten people who walk in the door to get a tattoo are in the military.
“The first thing they want to do is show their pride, you know. ’I'm a Marine, I'm a sailor, and I'm going to get something that represents that,’” said Baena.
Navy sailor Tyler Phillips has dozens of tattoos, but because he wears a long-sleeved camouflage uniform every day, you’d never know it, he said.
“In the Navy, we wear long sleeved camos every day. People look at me and I'm, you know, clean cut with glasses. People don't think I have full-body tattoos until I wear short sleeves and short shorts,” said Phillips.
His tattoos actually prevented him from joining the Army. He said officials told him he couldn’t show 25 percent of any limb.
Now, those Army restrictions are getting even tougher, making it the strictest of the branches when it comes to tattoos.
Ink is not allowed on members’ faces, heads, necks or hands. Soldiers may have no more than four visible tattoos below the knee or elbow - and they must be smaller than the size of the wearer’s hand.
Sleeve tattoos on arms or legs are not allowed, and enlisted soldiers who exceed the limit cannot request commissioning and they are not grandfathered in, as the Army Times reports.
Those restrictions don’t sit well with Phillips.
“I think it's bogus that tattoos are going to, you know, kind of define someone in the workplace,” said Phillips. “It doesn't have anything to do with how you work.”
Advocates say the change in policy will help the Army be more selective, helping it reduce the force by 80,000 as drawdowns continue.
But opponents wonder if the Army may not be able to enlist good recruits because of their ink.
Commanders will be required to perform an annual check on their charges for new tattoos or brands in prohibited locations.
Other changes include sideburns that can’t go below the bottom of the ear opening, and female soldiers will now be able to wear their hair in ponytails during physical training.
In 2011, the Marine Corps restricted the display of tattoos, and just last month, the corps rescinded orders that everyone keep their sleeves down to cover the ink.