Army Officers Can Now Order Soldiers to Remove Their Tattoos

The Army has inked out some new regulations concerning tattoos and where they can be placed on the bodies of Army personnel. While regulations already exist concerning what constitutes "offensive tattoos," commanding officers have never been able to order their removal. This is about to change.

The specific changes are part of Army Regulation 670-1. Aside from the ability of commanders to order tattoos removed, new recruits are no longer allowed to have tattoos that show below the elbows and knees or above the neckline, according to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler. Chandler made the announcement to members of the 10th Mountain Division stationed in eastern Afghanistan.

Tattoos have always had a place in military history. The first tattoo parlors in America were for Civil War soldiers. They became increasingly popular on veterans after World War II, but have always been discouraged in the military as they promote individuality and not solidarity in military culture.

The current and soon to be outdated policy states that while "commanders may not order the removal of a tattoo or brand," they are able to "counsel soldiers and afford them the opportunity to seek medical advice about removal or alteration of the tattoo or brand." The new 670-1 will allow the commanders to order the removal of offensive (racist, sexist, extremist, etc.) tattoos at the financial expense of the tattooed.

While not officially defined yet, Chandler has alluded to soldiers being able to keep existing, non-offensive tattoos they already have. The policy will affect new recruits though.

This may prompt those who wish to avoid military service at all costs to ink the areas of their body not permitted under the upcoming 670-1. While the new regulations appear to be strict, they are often waved off in times of low enlistment like during war. For example, during the Iraq War, the Army and Marine Corps gave waivers to felons who wanted to enlist. 

The tattoo policy has merit in that it promotes the solidarity of military culture while weeding out aesthetically offensive depictions, which also promotes a more encompassing culture for the increasingly diverse Army. If the draft ever comes, don't expect to avoid it with new body art though.