Who Do You Ink You Are? The Air Force's New Tattoo Regulations
The US Air Force has announced its new policy on tattoos for airmen and women.
It comes after a review of recruitment by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James last year.
Airmen and women were previously not permitted to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25% of the exposed body part.
Now, they could have full tattoo sleeves on their arms or large back pieces if they wanted. Ms James said:
"As part of our effort to attract and retain as many qualified airmen as possible, we periodically review our accessions policies. In this instance, we identified specific changes we can make to allow more members of our nation to serve without compromising quality."
Hand tattoos, meanwhile, will now be limited to one single-band ring tattoo, on one finger, on one hand, so a "more formal military image" can be presented when required at events and with dress uniforms.
This won't affect existing hand tattoos that were allowed under the previous policy.
Tattoos, brands or body markings on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips and/or scalp will still be banned, however.
The new rules will come into place next month.
It comes after a review of Air Force recruiters showed that almost half of contacts, applicants and recruits had tattoos.
Of these, one of every five were found to have tattoos requiring review or that may be considered disqualifying.
The Air Force is hoping relaxing the rules will open up a new group for potential recruitment.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, James A. Cody, said:
"We are always looking at our policies and, when appropriate, adjusting them to ensure a broad scope of individuals are eligible to serve. These changes allow the Air Force to aggressively recruit talented and capable Americans who until now might not have been able to serve our country in uniform."
Anything offensive, obscene, or associated with crime, discrimination or extremism will still not be allowed.
The Air Force is also to accept recruits that have previously had medical conditions that would have disqualified them, with changes taking effect immediately.
It means some candidates with more mild forms of eczema, asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could qualify for service.
Last year the US Marine Corps released a mammoth 32-page document on its new tattoo policy.
Potential recruits who legally used marijuana in the past will not necessarily be disqualified either, bearing in mind the legalisation of the drug in numerous US states.
Those with substance-related disorders or addiction problems will remain barred, however, while any legal proceedings associated with pre-service use will continue to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
And any drug use after the initial entrance interview would still result in disqualification for service. Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein said:
"Among the fundamental qualities required of our airmen is being ready to fight and win our nation’s wars. These accession standards ensure we maintain our high standards while bringing more consistency to our policies. As medical capabilities have improved and laws have changed, the Air Force is evolving so we are able to access more worldwide deployable airmen to conduct the business of our nation."