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Marine Corps sets new tattoo policy

4 Feb 2010 | Art Powell

Is that tattoo worth it?

Marine Administrative message 029/10, Amplification of Marine Corps Tattoo Policy, dated Jan. 15, updates previous Marine Corps policy on tattoos and contains major changes.

“Now, officers, both commissioned and warrant, are limited to not more than four tattoos which are visible while wearing the standard physical training uniform,” said Sgt. Maj. Scott C. Mykoo, sergeant major, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. “Band-type tattoos are limited to a maximum of two inches in width.”

The MARADMIN also has an effect on enlisted to officer programs.

It states that ‘enlisted Marines with previously grandfathered sleeve tattoos are not eligible for a commissioning or warrant officer program.

The message continues, “In other words, an enlisted Marine grandfathered for a sleeve tattoo in accordance with MARADMIN 198/07 has no restrictions for re-enlistment or promotion, but is not eligible to apply to the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education program, warrant officer or any other enlisted to officer program.”

Also, it states that ‘prior to commissioning/warrant officer appointment, officer candidates will be re-screened for tattoos which are not in compliance with this policy.’

According to the MARADMIN, Marines serve as America’s ambassadors and defenders of freedom in every region of the world.

“We are recognized around the world for our military prowess and high standards of military appearance and bearing,” said Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, under whose signature the document was released.

“The growing trend of excessive tattoos limits worldwide assignability of Marines and detracts from one of the most visible hallmarks of our Corps, our distinguished appearance. This tattoo policy seeks to balance the personal desires of Marines with their inherent responsibilities to set the example and present the sharp military appearance America has come to expect of her Marines,” Conway explained.

Tattoos may also negatively impact a Marine’s opportunity to be assigned to special duty assignments such as recruiting, Marine security guard or drill instructor.

“If a Marine wants to be selected for special duty assignments, but can’t because of tattoos, it will hurt their career opportunities,” Mykoo said. “A promotion board gives special consideration to those who have completed special duty assignments. If a Marine is unqualified because of tattoos, their peers with special duty assignments may be selected for promotion ahead of them.”

While the new MARADMIN spells out changes in tattoo policy, it outlines the definitions of what is prohibited.

These include tattoos which are sexist or contain nudity, racist, are eccentric or offensive in nature. Tattoos that express an association with conduct or substances prohibited by Marine Corps drug policy and the Uniform Code of Military Justice including illegal drugs, drug usage or paraphernalia are forbidden.

Also prohibited are tattoos or brands that depict vulgar or anti-American content, bring possible discredit to the Marine Corps or associate the applicant/Marine with any extremist group or organization.

Body parts that may not be tattooed are the head, neck, hands, fingers, wrists and inside the mouth.

Sleeve tattoos, as defined in the latest MARADMIN, are prohibited, as are half-sleeve or quarter-sleeve tattoos that are visible when wearing standard physical training gear, but no additional action is required by Marines whose sleeve tattoos were previously grandfathered per MARADMIN 198/07.

“Tattoos may be a cultural problem for Marines serving overseas,” Mykoo said. “They’re not highly regarded in some countries. As a force protection measure, visible tattoos could identify your service, country or religion. The bottom line is this: if a Marine has questions about tattoos, they should contact their leadership and be very sure of the facts before they get a tattoo.”

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany