Articles

Navy vying to be the most inked service with new tattoo policy


(Photo: U.S. Navy by MC3 Timothy Shumaker)

Sailors have a long history of sporting tattoos, and now the sea service is taking it to the next level with some major mods to the tattoo policy. The new rules, which take effect April 30, will allow sailors to:

  • Have multiple or large tattoos below the elbow or knee, including the wrists and hands, effectively allowing sleeve tattoos that can be seen even while wearing short sleeve uniforms.
  • Have one tattoo on their neck, which includes behind the ear, and it may not exceed 1 inch in length or height in either or both directions.
  • Sailors with visible tattoos will now be eligible for recruiting duty or leading recruits at boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. These tough assignments often give sailors a leg up to make rank.

The rules do not change the Navy's content guidelines that apply to body art "anywhere on the body," the policy says, which means that "tattoos that are obscene, sexually explicit, and or advocate discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin" are still banned.

"In addition, tattoos that symbolize affiliation with gangs, supremacist or extremist groups, or advocate illegal drug use are prohibited — waivers will not be given for tattoos with prohibited content," the service said.

"We just got to the point where we realized we needed to be honest with ourselves and put something in place that was going to reflect the realities of our country and the needs of our Navy," Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens told Navy Times in a March 30 interview. "We need to make sure that we're not missing any opportunities to recruit and retain the best and the brightest because of our policies."

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