Tattoos and the military have a long history. Modern popular culture credits the U.S. Navy with introducing the art of tattooing to the United States in the early 1900s, when sailors returning from distant lands displayed their skin-art. According to Staff Sgt. Stephanie van Geete, while “the times have changed, the military’s love affair with tattoos has not. Today, it seems, you couldn’t throw a rock into an Army formation without hitting a Soldier with at least one tattoo.”
With the release of a new set of guidelines governing tattoos (just this past week), the U.S. Marines have changed the rules. And things are about to change – big time. The U.S. Marine Corps’ new tattoo policy spans 32 pages, complete with a glossary and rules down to the inch, writes Nick Faris.
BY NICK FARIS (an excerpt)
Robert Neller is the commanding general of the United States Marine Corps. He has led American forces into Panama, Somalia and Iraq over his four decades of service.
Last week, he took steps to address the latest scourge facing his troops: Tattoos.
No longer will Marines be allowed to run rampant with body art — not under a 32-page set of regulations authorized by Neller on June 2. The bulletin lays out the Marine Corps’ tattoo policy in exacting detail, banning everything from tattoos above the baseline of the neck to those that run too close to elbows, wrists and knees.
It also comes with a glossary page — defining the elbow, wrist bone, knee and other terms — and a 14-page appendix of photos explaining what is and isn’t OK.
“The American people expect Marines to be disciplined, physically fit, and ready to accomplish any mission,” the first paragraph of the bulletin reads. “They also expect Marines to possess esprit de corps and a squared away and sharp personal appearance.”
In some ways, the updated policy is actually more lenient than past versions. Marines are now allowed to have an “unlimited” amount of tattoos on parts of the body covered by their uniform. Officers, though, are restricted to no more than four tattoos on exposed skin.
Existing bans on offensive or prejudicial designs are still enforced, while any tattoo on the head, neck and “in or around the mouth area” is also precluded. Chest and back tattoos are only allowed if they can be hidden by a “properly fitting crew-neck t-shirt.”