The uproar over the “military tattoo ban” has echoed across the internet over the last 24 hours. The proposed changes to Army Regulation 670-1, a document outlining the rules concerning a soldier’s personal appearance, go beyond dictating what tattoos a soldier can (and can’t) have. I spoke to someone in a leadership position at the Department of Defense about the proposed changes; he is required to be familiar with these types of regulations, and their possible changes, in order to enforce them.
“This is a routine review of uniform standards to ensure that modern cultural trends are mitigated against the strict standards of military bearing,” he said. “They talk about fucking nail polish and braids more than tattoos.”
This Army-only policy includes a new restriction banning tattoos below the elbows or knees, and above the collar. New Army recruits will not be allowed to join if they are tattooed in these “no-go” zones. Anyone currently under contract with the Army with existing tattoos will be grandfathered in. The new rule goes into effect Oct. 1st, 2013–after that, those with existing tattoos will be required have their current tattoos reviewed by unit leadership. Any tattoo found to be homophobic, racist, sexist, religiously offensive, or otherwise offensive, will have to be removed (on the soldier’s dime) or they risk ‘separation.’
Those with less than 4 years of service will likely be administratively separated. Administrative separations happen all the time; they’re like being laid off — the military’s way of saying, ‘We don’t want you, kid – but we don’t think you’re a bad guy.’ Those with more than 4 years of service refusing to remove the tattoos will be honorably discharged with all of their approved benefits—things like the GI bill, VA loan guarantees, preferred federal hiring, etc—intact.
The Army’s ground for such actions can be found in the UCMJ, or Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 92 of the UCMJ essentially states that you are required to follow any lawful order given. Regulation 670-1 qualifies as one such order.
“The Department of Defense policy has been ‘no offensive tattoos, period, for any reason, end of discussion’ for a really, really long time,” my DoD contact said. “The enforcement of this rule has been lax because we have too much other shit to worry about,” he continued.
It seems that lax period has come to an end. In the eyes of the UCMJ, all offenses are committed equally. You can be court-martialed and kicked out for an Article 92 violation just as easily as for going AWOL. Court martials over Article 92 violations are rare, he said, because they create a ton of unnecessary work—but they can happen.
“It all comes down to priorities and what they [the Army] choose to enforce. It’s like a cop in a bad part of town ignoring the guy smoking weed on the corner because he knows there will be a gunshot death at some point on his shift.”
TLDR; Those currently enlisted in the US Army should finish their sleeves before October 1, 2013 – the beginning of the Army’s fiscal year, and the cutoff date for being grandfathered in… as long as your tattoos would be considered non-offensive.
Tattoo Snob followers on IG seemed quite upset when we posted about this yesterday. What do you think?