Army Revamps Appearance Regulations After Controversy


WASHINGTON -- The Army on Tuesday loosened some rules on tattoos, decorative body mutilation and women's hairstyles in an update to the regulation governing appearance and uniform wear.

The Army in March issued a heavily updated Army Regulation 670-1, which, among other things, caused grumbling in the ranks with tightened requirements for tattoos and introduced controversial guidelines for women's hair.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that followed, the Congressional Black Caucus declared "the use of words like 'unkempt' and 'matted' when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are offensive and biased."

The new regulation removes the offending words, which were used to describe dreadlocks. But dreadlocks -- now defined as "any permanently twisted, or locked coils or ropes of hair (or extensions) or hair tangled closely together" -- remain forbidden in the Army.

The new revision also tones down a paragraph that laid down the law on women's hairstyles, removing discussion of bans on "locks and twists (not including French rolls/twists or corn rows)" and cutting out two references to braids. In one change, the policy now authorizes temporary, two-strand hair twists for women.

The revision has a number of new rules for tattoos.

Enlisted members with tattoos grandfathered under the March regulations can now seek a commission or an appointment. Previously, enlisted members could continue in the military as long as their tattoos did not violate policies against racist or extremist speech, and were not inked on forbidden areas of the body like the face, but could not become officers.

The new regulation also makes clear that soldiers can't add to grandfathered tattoos on parts of the body, such as lower arms and legs, where tattoos are unacceptable for new recruits.

The updated regulation also clarifies requirements for body mutilation or modification, specifying that plastic surgery and other medically approved changes to the body are acceptable. And, the regulation says, troops who entered the Army with approved mutilations -- a bifurcated tongue, for example -- before April 2014 can seek an exception to policy.

Among other changes, soldiers can now wear certain health gadgets -- activity trackers, pedometers and heart rate monitors -- with Army uniforms.

Soldiers also can wear the "next of kin" lapel pin on their service and dress uniforms. The pin is for the immediate family of military members killed on duty, outside of combat operations.

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