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Posted: 2/21/2006 5:32:49 PM EDT
February 27, 2006

New rules for tattoos
Looser regs spur excitement for some soldiers, caution for others

By Kelly Kennedy and Gina Cavallaro
Times staff writers

Two weeks ago, Kurt Maggio, a surgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., removed the letters tattooed on three fingers of a dependent who hoped to get into the Army.
Maggio didn’t know Army officials had just inked a change to Army Regulation 670-1 that could have saved him the effort.

As of Feb. 3, soldiers may have tattoos of any size or form on their hands, according to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, as long as they are not racist, sexist, extremist or offensive.

They may also have tattoos on the backs of their necks. Female soldiers may have permanent makeup.

Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, head of Accessions Command, said the change came so recruiters could bring more young people into the Army.

“There is no question that a lot more kids have tattoos today and that it has become a lot more acceptable than it was in the past,” he told Army Times. “We’re going to allow appropriate tattoos.”

Douglas Smith, Recruiting Command spokesman, said there are between 300 and 400 potential recruits the revamped regulation could affect.

That could help the Army meet this year’s recruiting goal of 80,000 active-duty soldiers, 25,500 Army Reserve recruits and 70,000 soldiers for the Army National Guard.

All three components have exceeded their recruiting missions since the fiscal year began Oct. 1, but they have to meet the same goals they set — and failed to achieve — in fiscal 2005. The active Army hit 73,373 people, or 92 percent of the goal. The Reserve brought in 19,385, missing its goal of 22,175 by 13 percent.

The regulation states only that tattoos are allowed on the necks and hands as long as they are not racist, extremist, sexist or offensive, but recruiters have received more guidelines.

“Tattoos that are potentially outside the standard or questionable require a recruiting battalion commander or battalion executive officer review,” Smith said. “All tattoos are documented on a form that has several reviews to determine if they must go to the battalion commander.”

Smith said Recruiting Command used to provide a pamphlet on tattoos to use as a guide for racist, sexist or gang tattoos, but recruiters now use the Internet as a tool because there has been such a proliferation of new designs.

“Simply having a gang tattoo or being in a gang cannot be a sole factor in being disqualified for enlistment,” Smith said. “It’s a matter of what they did or advocated that we use to make a determination.”

If the tattoos are questionable for placement or content, the battalion commander reviews them and, if approved, signs off on the new recruit’s paperwork.

In Denver, recruiting spokeswoman Debbie Cannon said the change will help recruiters meet their numbers, which Colorado missed last year.

“In the two weeks it has been in effect, we have already allowed two in who normally wouldn’t make it,” she said. “That just shows you how many come in with tattoos.”

One had a dark tattoo high up on the back of his neck, and the other had a tattoo behind her earlobe.

But recruiters also turned away two potential recruits since the policy change: One had a tattoo too close to the front of the neck, and the other had a tattoo behind the ear but above the jaw line — both not allowed according to command guidance.

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Paulino, an operations sergeant for recruiting in Los Angeles, said the Army defined “neck” as the back of the neck behind the jaw line. There was no added guidance for permanent makeup — using tattoos to fill in eyebrows and lips or as eyeliner, he said.

“This will be helpful,” he said, “especially here in California where a lot of people come in with tattoos.”

The reworked regulation stands in direct contrast to recent military tattoo trends: The Army banned hand tattoos in July 2002. In October, the Coast Guard tightened its rules for the first time in 30 years, saying members’ tattoos can’t cover more than 30 percent of exposed skin. The Navy doesn’t allow visible tattoos. And the Air Force tightened its rules in 1998, saying tattoos may cover only 25 percent of exposed skin.

The Army enacted its previous rule — that tattoos must be covered by the Class A uniform — in June 2002.

Gettin’ hip to what’s hot

Tattoo artists said the Army is reacting to a trend.

“Tattoos on the neck are kind of a new thing, within the last 10 years or so,” said tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle, who once inked Janis Joplin in the 1960s. “I’m a dinosaur. I don’t have any on my head or neck — I just don’t understand it.”

In fact, many tattoo artists, even those covered in “full suits,” don’t have tattoos on their hands or necks.

“When it’s a neck, it’s usually kids’ names and family names,” said Chad Koeplinger, an artist at Tattoo Paradise in Washington, D.C. “A lot of people want their first tattoo on their neck.”

A typical small tattoo can cost as little as $40, but the same-sized neck tattoo can cost $100 because it’s difficult to get to that area and to try to encourage people to think about it more.

Vince Hemingson, a tattoo historian in Vancouver, British Columbia, said tattoos in an obvious, visible place show a need to stand out in a competitive society. “It’s not enough that you have a tattoo,” said Hemingson, who has 16 tattoos but none on his face or hands.

“His ego needs for him to stand out from everybody else.”

That’s not usually what a uniformed society looks for in its members.

Van Antwerp said some soldiers will disapprove of allowing others to sport visible tattoos, and that he’s not wild about the idea of visible tattoos, “but we’re approaching this as a whole-person concept.”

Sgt. 1st Class Blain Berg of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Lewis, Wash., has 16 tattoos — all of which he got after joining the Army in 1988. His first was a skull wearing a beret — before he went to Airborne school.

“I didn’t color the beret in,” he said, laughing. But he doesn’t plan to get any on his hands or neck.

“I think I like the policy the way it used to be,” he said. “Tattoos on your hands are not seen as very professional.”

To ink or not to ink

At Fort Benning, Ga., last week, reaction among soldiers was anything but ambiguous, running the gamut from those who were extremely opposed to others who were enthusiastically in favor.

Some of the soldiers interviewed randomly by Army Times at Benning on Feb. 10 predicted the relaxed standard could bring more neck or hand tattoos, but others said they would counsel their soldiers against doing it.

Staff Sgt. Scott Berg, a reservist from Michigan who was mobilized to be a drill instructor at Benning two years ago, said he sees nothing wrong with the policy so long as the Army keeps the ban on hate or gang tattoos.

“I think they’re opening up a can of worms just because of the different tattoos that are out there. I don’t think they’ve really looked into it,” said Berg, who has 11 tattoos, including one covering his back that took a tattoo artist friend 23 hours to do.

Berg has been in the Army for 17 years and said his tattoos reflect his ardent patriotism. He hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll add one on his neck.

“If it incorporates with my tattoos, I might get one,” he said.

Some NCOs may try to dissuade soldiers from getting art on their necks by appealing to their sense of professionalism.

“I’m going to educate them first on having a tattoo on their hands or a tattoo on their neck, and what that does for your appearance as a professional soldier and a professional leader,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who was at Benning for a graduation of the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course.

A couple of Troxell’s soldiers took the same view.

“Being a platoon sergeant, I wouldn’t say, ‘You can’t do it,’ but I’ll advise them not to,” said Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Cano, a scout platoon sergeant with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. “You’ve got to have that clean look. As a soldier, you can’t be looking like a rag bag.”

Platoon leader 1st Lt. Joseph Byerly, of the 4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, has no tattoos.

“I’m not big on tattoos,” he said. “I understand it’s an art form and a way to express yourself, but as a soldier you’re constantly under the scope. It’s a profession, and there are a lot of things we can’t do that normal civilians can.”

Others pointed to a time gone by when no one cared what kind of tattoos soldiers had.

“When I came in the Army in 1987, if you had tattoos on your neck, they’d let you in anyway,” said Sgt. 1st Class Steve Dawson, the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course operations sergeant for Delta Company, 4th Ranger Battalion. Dawson concluded that soldiers who have been on duty for as many years would be less fazed by the revised policy.

Still, the revised policy put broad smiles on the faces of other soldiers, such as Spc. Ryan Hall of 2nd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, from Fort Bliss, Texas.

“I’m going to get one right here,” said Hall, slapping the back of his sweaty neck with the palm of his hand. It was graduation day at Benning’s Army Combatives School, and Hall had just been certified as a Level 3 instructor.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be, but now that they’ve made the reg, I’ll have to think of something,” he said.

Hall already has 17 tattoos.

He said he had always wanted to get a tattoo on his neck, “but I didn’t want to get kicked out [of the Army] for something stupid.”

Staff Sgt. Iaco Kalili, an instructor at the Combatives School, said he has lost count of how many tattoos he has, so he now measures his body art in hours spent under the needle. He’s up to 50 hours, and he’s seriously considering new art for his neck. He’s going to think about it before making a move, and said he would advise a young soldier to do the same.

Still, Kalili has a theory about the stigma of a neck tattoo in the Army.

“The first people who had tattoos were the ones in freak shows,” he said. “So look who’s in charge of the Army: It’s the old guys, and most of them probably don’t have tattoos because of that stigma. But now the younger guys are in leadership positions, and many of them have tattoos.”

But most of the tattoo parlors in Columbus, just outside the gates of Fort Benning, won’t do neck or hand tattoos and don’t recommend them for others, especially soldiers.

“We don’t do neck or hands,” said Tom Silva of Falcon’s Tattooing in downtown Columbus. “It’s a moral decision. Most of the guys who come in here are young and don’t know what they want.”

Some artists are former soldiers, too, and their interests run toward a more paternal instinct.

“I live and breathe for the military,” said Chris Petty, manager of Tattoo Tommy’s, which relies on soldiers for 90 percent of its income. “I love my soldiers.”

Petty, a retired sergeant first class, said even though soldiers can get previously banned tattoos, he won’t do it.

“I don’t want to be responsible for holding someone back. The Army approving something like that is moronic to me.”

In Grafton, Va., Letitia Sterling, owner of Army-Navy Tattoos, said she’s expecting a rush. “They’ve been talking about it this week,” she said. “A lot of them were excited about it.”

She also tries to talk them out of neck and hand tattoos, and she refuses to ink obscenities.

Johnny Lange of East Coast Tattooing in Arlington, Va., has full sleeves, but no tattoos on his hands or neck.

“If I dress up in a suit for a nice dinner or a funeral or a baptism, I don’t want them to show,” he said. “Even the guys with full kimonos can wear normal clothing and not have the tattoos show.”

As he talked, Emerson Gomez, 22, gripped the arms of Lange’s old dentist chair.

After trying to talk Gomez out of it, and charging him 30 percent more, Lange penned a fist-size pair of dice topped with a crown, signifying Gomez’s love of craps, on the right side of the front of his neck. “I had a friend who couldn’t get in the Army because of a tattoo on his neck,” said Gomez, a clean-cut electrician’s apprentice. “Well, he had a couple of felonies, too.”

Some artists say the neck and hand are just bad places to get a tattoo.

“It’s all vein and bone and it looks bad,” said Duong Nyuen of Rick’s Tattoos in Arlington. “The ink doesn’t look right, and it hurts.”

And the hands get a lot of wear, so tattoos fade quickly.

A blue Chinese symbol rides Nyuen’s earlobe, and he pulled out his bottom lip to show the symbol inside. But he doesn’t have any on his hands. He charges more to do them, and he tries to talk others out of hand and neck tattoos.

“But the soldiers will come and get a whole bunch,” he said. “They will be running wild.”

Link Posted: 2/21/2006 5:36:25 PM EDT
Tattoos - a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.

There - that ought to get the ball rolling.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 5:53:06 PM EDT
First off, I like tattoos. I have 2, one on my right arm, and a band on my left arm. I want to fill out my left arm with a half sleeve before this summer. That said, I've been in the military, and I think they made a poor choice. One of my good friends who has several tats, just got both his hands inked. He got a wizard on the back of both. In my opinion, it looks like shit. I'd never get one past the wrist.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:06:48 PM EDT

Originally Posted By JoshD:
First off, I like tattoos. I have 2, one on my right arm, and a band on my left arm. I want to fill out my left arm with a half sleeve before this summer. That said, I've been in the military, and I think they made a poor choice. One of my good friends who has several tats, just got both his hands inked. He got a wizard on the back of both. In my opinion, it looks like shit. I'd never get one past the wrist.



I feel the same way. I like tattoos, I have several, and all 4 of my brothers (all 5 of us were/are in the military) have tattoos too. That said, none of us have tats that are visible in a long sleeve shirt except my shitbag brother that is in jail now. He got one on his neck, and I had to ask him if he had given up hope of ever holding a white collar job. I don't even mind if .mil people have full sleeves, but anything visible in a long sleeve class A shirt is a problem imo. Is that really the image we want to portray to the public? Picture a future Army recruiter with crap all over his hands, initials (of who knows what) on his knuckles, a stupid ass barcode on the back of his neck, etc. He needs to sell the Army as a "high tech" highly skilled workplace to middle class high school kids. I just don't see it I guess, I must be an old fogey.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:08:27 PM EDT
Wierd, I think the USMC recently tightened tattoo regs.....
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:13:38 PM EDT

Originally Posted By KA3B:
They may also have tattoos on the backs of their necks. Female soldiers may have permanent makeup.



OMFG, thats horrible.

All the women I've seen with permanent "makeup," it looked horrible and sloppy.

IMO some tattoos arent that bad but how the fuck can anyone do that to thier face.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:19:30 PM EDT
Sad when standards are lowered.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:22:03 PM EDT
they are doing it because they realized that in this day when recruiting is so poor, they shouldn't turn an otherwise qualified recruit away just because she has permanent eyeliner, or just because he has an inoffensive tattoo on his hand.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:24:06 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SoCalJBT:
Sad when standards are lowered.



Recruiters have to make goal somehow. When you run out of otherwise qualified candidates...

As a note, the Army recently raised the number of GED holders they will accept as well, times are tough on the team green recruiting front, I really feel for those guys. It's easy to place blame when the AF and Navy are reducing our numbers of people, and our recruitment and retention is high. The vast majority of us don't spend a year in Iraq every three years though, thats gotta take a toll.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:29:54 PM EDT
im all in favor for the must be covered by the class A uniform. professionalisim. i like tattoos just ... i dunno some places they just dont belong.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:32:42 PM EDT

Originally Posted By OFFascist:

Originally Posted By KA3B:
They may also have tattoos on the backs of their necks. Female soldiers may have permanent makeup.



OMFG, thats horrible.



+1.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:32:46 PM EDT
I like tattoos. I have six of them. Mine are all on my upper arms and chest,
and mine can't be seen even wearing short sleeves. If I don't want you to know I have them, you will never see them. But, I have had them for almost 20 years, and no regrets.

That being said, it is totally fucking unsat for a soldier to have finger/hand/neck tattoos.
The US Army is getting ready to look like MS13 in cammies.

The Army must be getting real hard up for new personnel to lower the standard like that.

Disgusting.

Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:50:30 PM EDT

Originally Posted By HermanSnerd:
That being said, it is totally fucking unsat for a soldier to have finger/hand/neck tattoos.
The US Army is getting ready to look like MS13 in cammies.

The Army must be getting real hard up for new personnel to lower the standard like that.

Disgusting.




Disgusting? I find it stupifying that people would even give this a second thought. Who gives a shit? Is this about war or what? When I was in I could never figure this one out. I would take all the tattooed bastards the US could crank out if they would make the fitness/training standards harder. We need hardasses not poster boys.

Cheers
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:53:40 PM EDT
I think there should be a certain limit. Personally, I didnt see an issue with 670-1 tat standards before they were changed around 1999. If they are covered while in uniform fine, however I dont think facial tats should be permitted.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:53:57 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Moe-Ron:

Disgusting? I find it stupifying that people would even give this a second thought. Who gives a shit? Is this about war or what? When I was in I could never figure this one out. I would take all the tattooed bastards the US could crank out if they would make the fitness/training standards harder. We need hardasses not poster boys.

Cheers



Hardasses, yes. Gang members, no.

Link Posted: 2/21/2006 6:59:49 PM EDT
Gangmembers are a whole other topic. Tattoos do not mean gangmembers.


Cheers
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 7:06:53 PM EDT
So when did prison style tattoos become trendy? I'm not trying to bash those who have tats, if that's your thing go ahead, but tats on hands, face and neck remind me of prison convicts and gang members as previously mentioned. If they can be covered while in uniform fine, if someone wants to expose them off duty thats up to them. I remember guys getting Summarized Article-15's during basic training for getting unathorized tattoos. Then the Drill Sergeants messed with them, telling them tattoos are something that gets put on dogs and cats at the pound. But that was 22 years ago, I guess times have changed.
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 4:41:16 AM EDT

Originally Posted By SoCalJBT:

Originally Posted By Moe-Ron:

Disgusting? I find it stupifying that people would even give this a second thought. Who gives a shit? Is this about war or what? When I was in I could never figure this one out. I would take all the tattooed bastards the US could crank out if they would make the fitness/training standards harder. We need hardasses not poster boys.

Cheers



Hardasses, yes. Gang members, no.


I've had more than one former gangbanger turned Marine that did an outstanding job.

I tend to prefer them to the pussies I see running around high schools and colleges these days.
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 5:10:03 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 5:25:05 AM EDT
IMHO, if you have young people who want to VOLUNTER years of their lives to fight and possibly die for their country in some godforsaken country wtf diff does it make about what kind of tats they have? So if you have some idiot with FTW on his forehead you keep him away from the public and send him in first!
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 5:34:26 AM EDT
This new policy means that a guy is allowed to get a tatoo of a huge cock on their ass?
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 6:29:19 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Blue_Dragon:
This new policy means that a guy is allowed to get a tatoo of a huge cock on their ass?



Only in your dreams.
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 8:51:06 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Jarhead_22:

Originally Posted By KA3B:
“Simply having a gang tattoo or being in a gang cannot be a sole factor in being disqualified for enlistment,” Smith said.


That's going to come back and bite them in the ass.



Agreed.
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 9:08:17 AM EDT

Originally Posted By DeadSled:
im all in favor for the must be covered by the class A uniform. professionalisim. i like tattoos just ... i dunno some places they just dont belong.



Agreed.

NTM
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 9:14:54 AM EDT
Just goes to show how desperate the Army is.
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 10:57:30 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 11:27:18 AM EDT
Shit, the Army has sunk to an all time low.

First women are allowed in the Army, then in combat arms, BCT's, then ACU's now this WTF?

Link Posted: 2/22/2006 11:37:43 AM EDT
Someone's ability to make war has absolutely nothing to do with where they get ink. I remember a time when the Army was about war, Not boyscouts and peacekeepers. Quit worrying about petty shit, make the kids hardasses and go kill some mother fuckers. Tattoos or not.
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