New Army grooming rules get tough on tattoos

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by Michelle Tan, Army Times and DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on March 21, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Updated Friday, Mar 21 at 5:40 PM

Details of the Army’s highly anticipated revisions to grooming and uniform regulations leaked online Thursday, just days before the document was set to go into effect.

The updated Army Regulation 670-1 was approved March 6 by Army Secretary John McHugh, and it will replace more than 50 all-Army messages and include new policies on issues such as tattoos, fingernail polish and general uniform wear, the Army has said.

Senior officials told Army Times last fall that the regulation would largely be a return to rules in place before 2006, when the Army softened policies to allow in recruits with tattoos on their hands and necks. At the time, the Army sought to grow by 80,000 troops.

On Thursday, a set of 57 PowerPoint slides dated March 19 and titled “Uniform Policy Leaders Training” was posted on Facebook by U.S. Army W.T.F.! Moments and quickly spread across Army-related sites.

Among the changes outlined in the slides:

  • Sideburns on male soldiers will not extend below the bottom of the ear opening.
  • Female soldiers can wear their hair in a ponytail during physical training.
  • Tattoos are not authorized on the face, head, neck or hands.
  • Soldiers may have no more than four visible tattoos below the elbow or the knee; tattoos must be smaller than the size of the wearer’s hand.
  • Sleeve tattoos on the arms or legs are not authorized.
  • Enlisted soldiers who exceed the tattoo limit cannot request commissioning; they are not grandfathered.
  • Commanders must validate all tattoos above the neckline, below the elbows and below the knees with a description of the color and shape on an official memo.
  • Commanders will conduct an annual check for new tattoos or brands in prohibited locations.
  • Soldiers may carry a plain black umbrella during inclement weather while wearing the service, dress and mess uniforms. Umbrellas are not authorized in formations or when wearing field or utility uniforms.

"They should be able to mark their bodies how they see fit," said Robert Cleveland, who retired from the Army for medical reasons last month.

He spent 13 months in Afghanistan as a specialist.

Cleveland had a tattoo below his elbow while he was in the Army for five years.

He was getting another one Friday.

Under the new rules, he would need permission from his commander before getting the tattoo. He said most soldiers don't like the idea of the military restricting someone's rights, even if they're in the Army.

"A lot of people think that it would be morally wrong because of what soldiers have to go through and the pain that's inflicted upon them going overseas," said Cleveland.

The owner of South Tacoma Tattoos and Piercing was not surprised the Army was going back to pre-2006 standards.

"Sailor" Cameron Cook, a retired Navy sailor, said the military can afford to be more selective.

"We're not at war as heavily, we don't have as much invested on sending people overseas," said Cook. "So troop demand isn't that great."
 

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