Army Loosens Up its Tattoo Policy


A year after tightening restrictions on number and size of tattoos the Army on Wednesday announced an about face, removing the limitations in response to soldiers' concerns.

"Society is changing its view of tattoos and we have to change along with that," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said in a report by Army Times. "It makes sense. Soldiers have grown up in an era when tattoos are much more acceptable and we have to change along with that," he said.

An Army spokeswoman told the paper the new rules will not be official until the regulations are updated and published, which should happen soon.

Last March, the Army imposed restrictions on sleeve tattoos, including limiting the number of tattoos below elbows or knees to four. And those tattoos had to be smaller than the size of the soldier's palm, with fingers extended.

Within months of the March 2014 tattoo restrictions the Army found itself turning away otherwise qualified men and women seeking to enlist.

There was no indication in Wednesday's report whether recruiting concerns played a part in the latest change to the tattoo regulations.

Until the change announced Wednesday, the only modification to those regulations was a September 2014 decision allowing soldiers with "grandfathered" tattoos – those inked before the March 2014 restrictions – to become officers.

Two months later Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, just tapped to be the next Sergeant Major of the Army, told Army Times that the March 2014 restrictions upset many troops and was always a topic of discussion in meetings with soldiers.

"It's something we have to be cognizant of, but the Army has established a standard, and that is how we live," Dailey told the paper. "We're a professional Army that lives under rules and regulations, and it's our job as NCOs to support the chief of staff of the Army and Secretary of the Army."

On Wednesday, Dailey was quoted as saying the new, more lenient tattoo policy is the result of soldier input.

Longstanding prohibitions on face, neck and hand tattoos will remain in place, as will bans on extremist, racist and sexist tattoos.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at

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