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Army: Your half-sleeve tattoos could be OK

Apr. 5, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Army's new tattoo policy has confused some soldiers. According to officials, if you have a half-sleeve above your knee or elbow you do not violate AR 670-1. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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If you have a half-sleeve tattoo that ends above your elbow or your knee, you’re good to go under the Army’s new grooming and appearance reg.

The updated Army Regulation 670-1 was published March 31, and concerns about how much the Army was going to tighten its policies were quickly replaced by confusion about what is acceptable and what will not be grandfathered.

A lot of confusion has centered on sleeve tattoos, which have become highly popular among troops.

Soldiers cannot have tattoos on their face, head, wrists or hands, or tattoos that are racist, extremist, indecent or sexist. They also cannot have more than four visible tattoos below the elbow or below the knee; those tattoos must be smaller than the size of the wearer’s hand.

Visible band tattoos may be no more than two inches in width. Each band tattoo counts as one tattoo, and soldiers may have no more than one visible band tattoo.

Full sleeve tattoos on arms or legs are not authorized.

The same rules apply to officers and warrant officers. Enlisted soldiers exceeding the tattoo limit cannot request commissioning, a new rule that has already irked many soldiers.

Under the new rules, the Army will keep records of soldiers’ tattoos that are to be updated annually.

The new regulation grandfathers a vast majority of soldiers who are already in the ranks, provided they don’t have tattoos that are racist, extremist, indecent or sexist.

The Army worked hard on and put a lot of thought into the updates to AR 670-1, said Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler.

The reg underwent “several iterations” and legal reviews, and Chandler and senior noncommissioned officers across the Army sought feedback and comments from the force.

“I talked about it in every single town hall meeting I conducted,” Chandler said. “I can tell you that probably the biggest or the single highest amount of questions I got were about tattoos.”

The final result is a “fair and balanced approach,” Chandler said.

“It’s not like somebody woke up this morning and said, ‘Today we’re going to change the tattoo policy,’” he said. “Probably thousands of man hours went into coming up with what we feel is a fair and balanced approach to our soldiers who are serving and for those who have yet to serve.”

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