Staff Sgt. Jacob Wiley wrote us from FOB Connolly, in Afghanistan, to say that there’s a lot of talk there about the Army revamping its tattoo policy to aid in downsizing.
He wanted to know if the rumor was true.
The Army last revised its policy on tattoos (see AR 670-1, PDF) in 2006 so that it could get at more potential recruits. It began to allow visible tattoos on the hands and the back of the neck, so long as thet were not extremist, racist or sexist.
If a soldier has a tattoo that somehow runs afoul of Army policy, a commander cannot technically order the soldier to remove a tattoo. However, the command can counsel the soldier on “medical options” (read “removal”), and a soldier who does not take the medical option at the Army’s expense can be discharged.
What Wiley heard was that if a soldier has tattoos that are visible in the summer PT uniform, the soldier would be directed to remove them or they will be discharged.
“Sounds a bit off to me, as tattoos have always been commonplace in the military, with tributes to fallen comrades being the most well known,” he writes. “Then again, they are downsizing.”
We went to Hank Minitrez, a spokesman for the Army G-1. He wasn’t sure where Wiley got his information, but his experts told him that there are no tattoo policy changes in the works, and there have been no “All Army Activities” messages on the topic.
“They’ve received no guidance from the sergeant major of the Army, the chief of staff of the Army, the vice chief of staff of the Army, anyone who would issue that guidance to change the reg,” Minitrez said. “It hasn’t been a topic of the Uniform Board, so no.”
Jeff Schogol, AKA the Rumor Doctor over at Stripes, is the pro here. But at the risk of copyright infringement, please allow me roll up my sleeves and take a crack at a diagnosis.
The rumor seems to be false, but we will be keeping our ears open for any news that the Army is using skin art to kick soldiers out. If you hear anything, please let us know.