Military Tattoo Crackdown Is Just What This Country Needs

tattoo America, prepare for a better groomed soldier. The US Army is debating everything from a change in that military haircut to saying bye bye to the French manicure. But the rule that could really stir things up is a proposal to limit military tattoos.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Tattoos are intrinsically linked with the armed forces. To end inking is to end a proud tradition.


Indeed the first tattoo I ever saw was on of my grandfather, a proud veteran of the United States Navy. We kids traced our fingers over the anchor on his arm countless times. Today one of my cousins bears his twin brother's initials above the Air Force wings to keep him close even while he's off serving our country. Heck, even some of the GI Joe toys had tattoos back in the '80s (take that tattoo Barbie)! I have a hard time imagining a tattoo-free military.

But when SMA Raymond F. Chandler III, the Sergeant Major of the Army, asked people to weigh in on his public Facebook page, many soldiers -- active duty and veterans alike -- said those sorts of tattoos would be fine. What they want to see gone are the tattoos not covered by a standard uniform. In other words? They want a return to the way the Army was just about five years ago, when back of the neck and hand tattoos were suddenly OK'd, ostensibly in order to boost recruitment while the country was (is) at war.

Before that, the Army had rules similar to most corporations: not "no tattoos" but "only some tattoos." I don't think it makes me a prude to say that makes a lot of sense. An employer doesn't own your skin, but they do depend on you to represent them in public. In the case of the US Army, we're not talking some rinky dink operation. You're representing our entire COUNTRY. It's a reputation that needs to be protected.

Chanlder himself told the Army Times that he's trying to craft a more professional look for soldiers as a whole: 

I believe that we can better visualize to the American people and the Army what it means to be an American soldier than we’re doing now.

Controlling whether a tattoo on the neck or hands is classy or not is difficult. Some can be, but it all depends on the design and the artist. To put out a blanket statement is a lot easier.

And if you stop with the obvious skin, it doesn't have to stifle creativity or pride in the job. I know several veterans who bear markings of company -- something they got well before the 2006 rule update -- and they're happy with the placement. On the corporate side, my husband's tattoos are covered by the button-up shirts he wears to his professional office every day. He's happy, his bosses are happy. Everyone wins.

Of course there are others calling for a complete ban and still others calling for the Army to just let it go. But going back to covered up tattoos sounds like a sensible, happy medium that keeps the tradition of inking in the Army without hurting their uniformity.

What do you think? Is it OK for the military to limit how and where a solider is inked?


Image via JD Photography/Flickr

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