Got one of those emails from an incoming freshman I get every year. There are always the ones about roommates or how to schedule classes or how is the class going to effect varsity athletics. This email was about tattoos. It’s a good thing that incoming freshmen are asking about important decisions like this that could effect your future military career. So here’s what Cadets need to know about ink.
First a little “teach a man to fish” moment. Just about everything in the Army is governed by a written document. Whether it’s a regulation, a technical manual, field manual, or what they call Army doctrine publication, you can find some guidance. You don’t need to read and memorize all of it, but you do need to know where to find it and how it’s organized, so when you need the information you know where to look. If you need to do preventative maintenance on your M1 tank you’ll look in the technical manual (TM) for the step by step instructions. And through the wonders of the internet… this is the website where you can find all those documents.
Which gets me to military appearance and tattoos. Army Regulation 670-1 (AR 670-1) is titled WEAR AND APPEARANCE OF ARMY UNIFORMS AND INSIGNIA. One important thing to note is the current publication date. Whenever you are searching for an Army publication you want to make sure you are looking at the current edition. In the case of AR 670-1 the current edition is dated 05/25/2017. One of the big reason’s I say that is things change in the Army. Here is what I wrote about Tattoos back in 2014. The Army was getting a little conservative about tattoos and some of applicants and prospects were running into issues. The Army did realize they eliminated a large chunk of the population with the new standards and the standards were changed.
So, what is the current guidance? Here it is, right out of the reg. Chapter 3 of the regulation covers appearance and grooming policies. Section 3 of chapter 3 addresses Tattoos. If you are considering Ink or wondering if your current tattoo meets the regulation read the whole section, but here is the most pertinent part
c. Tattoos or brands, regardless of subject matter, are prohibited on the head, face (except for permanent makeup, as
provided in paragraph 3–2b(2)), neck (anything above the t-shirt neckline to include on/inside the eyelids, mouth, and
ears), (below the wrist bone), and hands, except Soldiers may have one ring tattoo on each hand, below the joint of the
bottom segment (portion closest to the palm) of the finger. Previously documented tattoos on the neck or hands, for which
Soldiers have a tattoo validation memorandum, continue to be grandfathered. Accessing applicants must adhere to this
Bottom line is keep it above the wrist and below the neck. I would also say, based on what happened in 2014 you should understand that the standard could change.
The other big topic in that paragraph pertains to subject matter. Make sure your tattoo isn’t inappropriate. Take a look at the reg before you make your appointment and make sure you are not doing something that could cause you to lose your scholarship, be disenrolled, or cause you to have your tattoo removed.
You can always check with your cadre if you aren’t sure.