Like its sister services, the Air Force is getting in line to update its tattoo policy in the next few months.

"The Air Force has recently formed a working group to review the tattoo policy," Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Brooke Brzozowske told Air Force Times on Tuesday. "Depending on the working group's findings, we anticipate any policy change proposals to be ready for Air Force leadership consideration in the fall of 2016."

Brzozowske did not say specifically what senior leadership is looking to change, but that its been in discussion for some time.

The news comes just a week after the Navy overhauled its tattoo policy, allowing sailors to sport neck tattoos, sleeves and even markings behind their ears, the most lenient policy of any military service.

And airmen, like sailors, may be able to cheer on new reforms if the outcome is favorable.

The Air Force hasn't updated its policy on tattoos since 2010, when there was a change to which changed how the chain of command could determineview, or even measure, a tattoo to be "excessive." If airmen have excessive tattoos — anything defined as covering 25 percent of an exposed body part or readily visible when wearing any uniform other than PT gear — they also need to fill out a form for their commander to document that an excessive tattoo has been waived and the individual has been authorized to cover the tattoo with his or her uniform.

The form remains on an airman's service record until the he or she leaves the Air Force or the tattoo is removed, Brzozowske said.

Other restrictions apply: any visible tattoos or markings above the collarbone, such as the neck, head, face, tongue, lips, and/or scalp, are prohibited. Unauthorized tattoos need to be removed. , and per aAt the commander's discretion, they could be removed through various sessions in a Defense Department medical treatment facility. 

Airmen cannot tattoo themselves with symbols linked to hate groups, Brzozowske said. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations generates a list of what constitutes intolerable markings.

"If presented with a request from Air Force officials, AFOSI would research the symbol to determine if it has been reported to law enforcement in the past as associated with hate groups," Brzozowske said. Local and federal law enforcement, such as the Justice Department, FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, play a part in determining such symbols, she said.

Inputs from soldiers prompted the Army to updated its tattoo policy last April. Under the new rules, tattoo sleeves, which typically cover the arm from shoulder to wrist, are once again authorized as long as they don't extend past the wrist, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey told Army Times.

"As long as it's not visible in the Army uniform … that's the spirit of what we went after," he said.

The Marine Corps, however, was not willing as kind to allow Marines to ink on sleeves, covered or uncovered. The service, pending its own review, will be more lenient toward Marines who want tattoos, but "they can’t get a sleeve," Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marine Corps Times in January. 

If you're an airman with a tattoo, or are thinking of getting a tattoo, let us know what aspects of the Air Force policy you would like to see changed. Email reporter Oriana Pawlyk. at

Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at

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