New Tattoo policy – Don’t do anything you will regret

Thinking about getting a tattoo??  For all of you that are considering enlisting or pursuing a commission you need to understand the tattoo policy before you do.    The other day the Cadre of the Golden Knight Battalion reviewed the new Army standards to make sure we knew who might have issues with the new policy.  The document that covers appearance is Army Regulation Ar 670-1. Here is what we took away from our review.

Above the neck or below the wrist

If you have ink above the neck or below the wrist you are not eligible to join.  I’m pretty sure this one isn’t a big change.  So, that celtic knot on the back of the neck or the flower behind the ear is/was a bad idea.  And definitely don’t get a Mike Tyson, if you want to serve.

Below the elbow/knee

No more than 4 visible tattoos total on the arms or legs below the elbow/knee.  Each tattoo can be no larger than the soldier’s hand.  So, that snake all the way down your calf, from knee to ankle, will not fly.

Sleeve tattoos

Sleeve tattoos below the elbow or knee are not authorized.  You are allowed one visible (below the elbow/knee) band tattoo.  The Army defines this as a tattoo that is no more than two inches in width.  That counts as one of the four authorized visible tattoos.

Extremist, Sexist, Racist tattoos are prohibited.  Soldiers are also prohibited from “willful mutilation of the body or any body parts in any manner”.  They are talking about you with the 1 inch guages in your ears, or the split tongue.  You are also not allowed to wear bandages or jewelry to cover up unauthorized tattoos.

What are the takeaways

After seeing the new changes I had two big takeaway pertaining to myself and future Army ROTC Cadets.  The first is that I will need to add the question of tattoos to my list of qualifying conditions when talking to a prospect.  The second is that I will advise anyone who asks to think long and hard about getting ink.  Over the next couple years the Army will be changing as we transition back into a “peacetime” Army.  As the force gets smaller there will be less incentive to wave the rules and standards.  This is not an organization you join to flaunt your first amendment rights.  So, get that tiny heart with your girlfriend’s initials on your butt cheek, but the full body Samoan masterpiece you’ve been saving up for may have to wait until you retire.


  1. So are half sleeves allowed for students in the rotc program? I will be joining the program this coming year and I have been hesitant on the half sleeve due to fear of losing my scholarship.

    1. so do you currently have a half sleeve? This is the deal. Since I wrote this post the Army is talking about changing again. The new SMA is a little more tolerant regarding tattoos. I would still strongly recommend that you refrain from getting any ink that can be seen while you are wearing your summer PT uniform. You never know when the next chain of command will swing back the other way.

  2. I have an appointment set up for a quarter sleeve. It is half way between my elbow and the top of my shoulder. It is covered by my short sleeve dress shirts so I feel like I should be fine but i’m not 100% sure. What do you think?

    1. I’ll start by saying I don’t have any ink and have never thought about getting any, but I’m a little bit older than you are. Both of my daughters have ink, but neither is in the military and they were both 18 when they got their tattoos.
      You are entering a vocation that prides itself on professionalism. Some people (for whatever reason) view tattoos as being unprofessional. That all being said, a relatively small tattoo on your upper arm should not be a big deal. I would also say that most of my current Cadets have tattoos and only two of them have tattoos that would have been a problem with the current regulation. As long as you keep it within the regs you should be fine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s