New SMA to take serious look at Army tattoo policy

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Soldiers’ strong objections to the Army’s tattoo policy have caught Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey by surprise — and he’s planning to measure the extent of this dissatisfaction, across the service.

“I don’t want this to be the deciding factor for a good soldier to get out,” said Dailey, who took over as the Army’s top enlisted leader on Jan. 30.

If he finds this to be a force-wide issue, Dailey said action may be necessary. The SMA said he will keep an ear out for soldier concerns on tattoos, and any other issues, in the weeks and months to come.

This week Dailey embarked on his first troop visit as SMA, heading to JBLM.

via New SMA to take serious look at Army tattoo policy.

I’m surprised that he’s surprised. It’s a very emotional issue.

I’m not a tattoo guy. I can’t even stand the thought of getting one.

But for many, their ink is a mural telling their story, and often, a memorial to their friends.

Further, there’s a very strong perception in the ranks that the new tattoo policy is seen as a tool to purge the ranks of people, not based on the quality of their performance and service, but upon the most superficial of reasons such as appearance.

Full sleeve tattoos were not common at all back in my day. And back then, the regulation basically said that if tattoos weren’t visible while in the Class A uniform, there was no issue.

But of course, troops often spend a lot of time not in the Class A uniform. Be it in PT uniform, or in short sleeves, many soldiers today have large tattoos that are far more visible than those soliders of my generation wore.

SMA Daley raises the question of what the public perception of the American soldier is. But really, is that a sufficient cause to curtail the careers of proven soldiers, particularly at a time when the Army and other services appear to be rushing to indulge in ever expanding social engineering experimentation?

9 thoughts on “New SMA to take serious look at Army tattoo policy”

  1. Yeah why is this a priority.

    I think as a Soldier you should always be professional but of course younger soldiers like I was are immature (not that I have tattoos) so they’ll need some guidance from their platoon daddy/NCO.

    A full arm or leg tattoo is probably a little too much but whom I’m I to judge.

  2. “upon the most superficial of reasons such as appearance.”

    The Army regulates every aspect of your appearance, including most obviously your clothing and your haircut. Hard to see why this should be any different.

    The Army is going to have to get rid of good people as it gets smaller. If they have to decide between two people, one with tats and one without, if all other things are equal they should get rid of the guy with tats.

    1. No, they should not. Tattoos are a big part of the culture of combat arms soldiers in this Army. This policy feels a LOT like it was directed at getting rid of (by discouragement of re-enlistment of limiting of career options) people who actual went forth and killed the enemy because we weren’t desired anymore.

      This policy is widely seen as out of touch, clumsy, and a completely misplaced initiative to increase “professionalism” in nothing more than a cosmetic sense.

    2. I have to concur with M1A1TrkTrror. From my sensing of the issue, if you’re going to use appearance as a force shaping tool, height and weight is seen as a more popular discriminator that tattoos.

  3. Good golly. A specific uniform appearance has been a requirement for years. Nothing new here.
    What’s next, cowboy boots and stetsons? Piercings? Why have uniforms at all, if individuality is so important? The Army of One triumphs.

  4. Yeah gone are the “mom” tats, plus the skin illustrators have gotten well artistic hence the tats are more sophisticated. While still serving I noticed more tattoos on “grunts” less Spec Ops soldiers. Ranger Reg soldiers if they had a tat it was their SSN & blood type. Goes with the thought about the bullet launchers relative to tattoos. Course our public perception prefers we don’t drink or have sex either so there’s that. HT/WT & APFT are great indicators. Tatoos have guidance about what they say, or show. The Sergeant Major of the Army’s got bigger fish to fry I believe.

  5. Tattoos will end up being a rights movement later in the century. As the United States progresses as a society the cultural norms change, as should the regulations for military service. The services are losing a lot of good recruits due to it’s inadequacy to identify this. Officer or enlisted, it does not matter how much ink a service member has. It does not affect that service members’ ability to perform her/his job. Service members must be well-rounded via physical ability and mental ability. How does a service distinguish an applicant by the size or location of the tattoos one has? As a war veteran I understand that in certain situations identification is not desired, racist and/or vulgar tattoos are not presentable, but if an applicant can cover up his/her tattoos with pants, a long sleeve shirt, and helmet (combat load) there should not be an issue.

    A 21 year old female that has tattoos, a perfect ASVAB, GT score, and physical training score is going to be turned away for a subpar mediocre 25 year old male with below average scores in all areas without tattoos. It just doesn’t make any sense, it holds no logic for the capability of a person to perform his/her duties as a service member. Based off personal experience you can be stereotyped or judged for tattoos in the military or civilian sector, but it holds no weight against the caliber of the person. I understand the importance of professionalism, discipline, customs and courtesy, and public perception….Tattoos are a part of the military culture and should remain as such. Tattoos are not displayed at Arlington National Cemetery when a Marine, Soldier, Seaman, Airman, or Coast Guardsman is buried in the ground – so it renders the current regulations invalid. It is brashly stating one cannot serve and sacrifice life for the greater good of our country despite the capability one possess to be an asset to the country; that is being prejudice! Scars, psoriasis, freckles, skin color, birthmarks, sexual orientation, religion, and sunburn do not restrict anyone so why should tattoos? It should be changed throughout all the services and have one “across the board” standard. Law enforcement and the military. Do not take away the only way to express yourself as an individual in the military, uniformity and professionalism will always be maintained. I view this just as abrasive as women in combat roles and homosexual relationships in the military; it’s denying a willing volunteer of our country the ability to serve and it’s an arbitrary reason that needs to be addressed.

    What gives me the right?
    – 3 years Iraq
    – 3 years Afghanistan
    – Prior service combat vet
    – Civilian/military experience stateside and abroad
    – Tattoos are not bad, a judgement of character or position/rank, nor should they be a deciding factor on the application or retention of U.S. Service members.
    – No one should be looking at tattoos, they should be looking at scores, qualifications, and reviews

  6. That culture needs changing. Tattoos are for degenerate freaks.

    Tarl, go look at a photo history of WW2 and say that again with a straight face. Sailors & Marines especially enjoyed skin art. If memory serves tats were fairly popular with the grunts in Vietnam as well.

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