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Military Tattoo Policy Regulation 2023

Military Tattoo Policy
Military Tattoo Policy

What’s the deal with tattoos in the military? What is the military tattoo policy? Is it true that you can get written up for defacing government property if you get a tattoo while in the service? No, that would be dumb. 

But there are rules and regulations for each military branch regarding which tattoos you’re allowed to have and where you can put them.

In this article, I will break down the tattoo policies across the military.

Each branch of the military has its specific regulations regarding tattoos. Below is a summary of the military tattoo policy in each branch.

Army Tattoo Policy: The Tattoo, Branding, and Body Mutilation Policy

Let’s start with the Army. The Army’s tattoo policy is called the tattoo, branding, and body mutilation policy, and it essentially just prohibits you from getting a tattoo that would not be socially acceptable in, say, a G-rated movie.

Prohibited Themes

  • So we’re talking no naked mermaids and no huge curse words across your chest.
  • The Army prohibits anything they deem indecent or unprofessional besides things you shouldn’t be getting anyway, like tattoos of extremist group symbols or anything sexist or racist.

Location Restrictions

  • No matter what your tattoo is, the Army prohibits getting inked on your head or face (except for permanent makeup, which you can get if you want), your neck, anything above the T-shirt neckline, including your ears or mouth, below the wrist bone, or on your hands.

Exceptions

  • Soldiers can have one ring tattoo on each hand in the place where rings can go if they want.

Enforcement and Consequences

  • You are not allowed to cover your tattoos with band-aids or makeup to pretend to follow this policy.
  • Commanders should do annual checks to ensure the soldiers stay within the policy.
  • If they aren’t, the soldier will have to get the offending tattoo removed or covered up within 15 days of discovery.
  • If the soldier refuses, bad things will probably happen to them.

Marine Corps Tattoo Policy: Changes and Specifics

Previous Restrictions and Current Changes

The Marines used to have a much stricter tattoo policy than they do now. In 2007, the Marines banned sleeve tattoos and any tattoos visible in shorts and a T-shirt. But no longer. As of 2022, the Marine policy looks much like the Army’s, with Marines allowed to get tattoos anywhere but their faces, heads, necks, and hands.

Specific Allowances and Restrictions

  • They can also have a one-ring tattoo if they’re into that.
  • Like the Army, chest tattoos in the Marines cannot show above the neck of a T-shirt.

Content Requirements

Content-wise, Marines can’t have tattoos that could be deemed defensive anywhere in the world or have cultural insensitivities; a risk for deployment if you have one of those.

Forbidden Themes

  • Marines also can’t have anything drug-related, gang-related, extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist.
  • Notably, the new policy also specifies that Marines can’t have anti-America tattoos, which begs the question: was that a big issue recruiters faced?

Air Force Tattoo Policy: Evolution and Present Rules

Like the Marines, the Air Force also recently loosened their tattoo policy, dropping many of the rules they had set up in 2010.

Previous and Revised Policies

  • Airmen used to have a rule that prohibited them from having tattoos on over 25 % of their bodies and had size limitations on all tattoos.
  • Both policies were dropped in 2017, narrowing the no-no zone down to the ever-popular hands, head, and neck.
  • They also specify that airmen cannot have tattoos on their faces, tongues, lips, or scalps.

Unique Allowances

  • They are allowed a ring tattoo, but unlike the Army, airmen can only pick one hand for that.
  • Airmen are super special because they can also have tattoos on their feet if they want.

Prohibited Content

  • As usual, tattoos considered obscene, anything extremist or supremacist, sexist or racist, or anything that has any racist or religious discrimination associations are not permitted.
  • Gang-related tattoos are also banned in the Air Force.

Space Force Tattoo Policy: Assumptions

The Space Force doesn’t seem to have its own tattoo policy. Still, we can assume theirs is the same as the Air Force’s, with perhaps the added stipulation that tattoos cannot be deemed defensive to the extra-terrestrial life they will see in the field.

Navy Tattoo Policy: Historical and Present Tolerance

Sailors have historically loved tattoos, and the Navy is no exception.

Permitted Locations

  • The Navy allows sailors to have full tattoo sleeves and tattoos anywhere on their legs of any size.
  • Sailors are also allowed one neck tattoo as a treat, but it can’t be larger than an inch in any direction.
  • That tattoo can be behind your ear as long as it doesn’t touch your ear. Ears are legal territory in the Navy.
  • The Navy is also okay with hand tattoos, but not any on your face or scalp.

Content Standards

  • As for content, the official naval stance is that no tattoo located anywhere on the body can be prejudicial to good order, discipline, and morale or be of a nature that brings discredit to the naval service.
  • Basically, the same no-evil policy as the other branches, but with an added nothing that makes the Navy look bad rule.
  • The Navy also specifies that tattoos must not discriminate against anyone based on religion, ethnicity, or nationality.

Coast Guard Tattoo Policy: Relaxations and Limits

The Coast Guard has a pretty relaxed tattoo policy.

Permitted Tattoos

  • They allow one tattoo per hand. However, it does have to stay one inch or smaller, and it can only be between the wrist and the first knuckle with nothing on the palm.
  • In addition, Coast Guardsmen can also have a ring tattoo. They can even have something else in that spot if they want. Still only one finger per hand, though.
  • Coasties can also have a tattoo behind one ear. Exciting.
  • They still specify that no neck tattoos can be visible above the collar of a T-shirt. No face tattoos either.

Prohibited Themes

Everything else is pretty much fair game, with the usual ban on tattoos reflecting racism, discrimination, indecency, extremist or supremacist philosophies, lawlessness, violence, or anything that contains sexually explicit content.

Military Tattoo Policy List 2023

Below is the tattoo policy for all branches of the military:

Military BranchTattoo Location RestrictionsContent RestrictionsUnique Rules
ArmyNo tattoos on the head, face (except makeup), neck, above the T-shirt neckline, below the wrist, or hands.No indecent, unprofessional, extremist, sexist, or racist tattoos.One ring tattoo per hand. No cover-up allowed. Regular checks enforced.
MarinesChest tattoos can’t show above T-shirt neck. One ring tattoo allowed.No offensive, culturally insensitive, drug-related, gang-related, extremist, indecent, sexist, racist, or anti-America tattoos.One ring tattoo is allowed. Foot tattoos are permitted.
Air ForceNo tattoos on hands, head, neck, face, tongue, lips, or scalp.No obscene, extremist, supremacist, sexist, racist, or discriminatory tattoos. No gang-related tattoos.One ring tattoo is allowed. Foot tattoos are permitted.
Space ForceAssumed the same as Air Force PolicyAssumed the same as Air Force PolicyAssumed the same as Air Force.
NavyNo tattoos on the face or scalp. One small neck tattoo and hand tattoos are allowed.No prejudicial or discriminatory tattoos.Full sleeves and any size leg tattoos are allowed.
Coast GuardOne small tattoo per hand. No visible neck tattoos above the T-shirt collar or face tattoos.No tattoos reflecting racism, discrimination, indecency, extremist philosophies, violence, or sexually explicit content.One ring tattoo and one ear tattoo are allowed.
Military Tattoo Regulation Policy

Military Tattoo Regulation Conclusion

In conclusion, the military tattoo policy and regulations are quite similar across the force; there are some exceptions, but now you should know the deal with tattoos in the military.

Yes, you are allowed to get tattoos in the military, and no, the government can’t own your skin real estate. Well, maybe your face, but that’s a different issue. I hope you enjoyed the article.

George N.