Navy Relaxes Rules on Tattoos to Get and Keep Younger Recruits

(Photo: MC3 Timothy Schumaker/Navy)
(Photo: MC3 Timothy Schumaker/Navy)

The Navy is easing its tattoo policy in a bid to recruit and retain more sailors from the millennial generation, of whom more than 1 in 3 sport body art.

Sailors will be allowed to have neck tattoos, sleeves and even markings behind their ears under the new policy, the most lenient of any military service. Only their heads are off limits under the new policy, which the Navy’s top sailor has called a reality check on the permanent art favored by sailors.

“We just got to the point where we realized we needed to be honest with ourselves and put something in place that was going to reflect the realities of our country and the needs of our Navy,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens said in a March 30 interview. “We need to make sure that we’re not missing any opportunities to recruit and retain the best and the brightest because of our policies.”

The new rules, announced Thursday and taking effect April 30, will allow sailors to:

  • Have multiple or large tattoos below the elbow or knee, including the wrists and hands, effectively allowing sleeve tattoos that can be seen even while wearing short sleeve uniforms.
  • Have one tattoo on their neck, which includes behind the ear, and it may not exceed 1 inch in length or height in either or both directions.
  • Sailors with visible tattoos will now be eligible for recruiting duty or leading recruits at boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. These tough assignments often give sailors a leg up to make rank.

The rules do not change the Navy’s content guidelines that apply to body art “anywhere on the body,” the policy says.

The service reiterated these in the updated policy, banning “tattoos that are obscene, sexually explicit, and or advocate discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.”

“In addition, tattoos that symbolize affiliation with gangs, supremacist or extremist groups, or advocate illegal drug use are prohibited — waivers will not be given for tattoos with prohibited content,” the service said.

The updated tattoo policy does not apply to Marines, even ones serving at Navy commands, according to a spokesman for Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller. The Marines are easing their tattoo rules but do not allow sleeves, which would be visible with short-sleeved uniforms like PT uniforms.

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SOURCE: Mark Faram 
Navy Times