Soldiers are rushing into tattoo parlors before new Army regulations go into effect outlawing ink below the elbow and knee and above the lower neck.
The regulations, which are undergoing final review, allow soldiers who already have tattoos to be grandfathered in unless the Army deems them to be so offensive or obscene that they will have to be removed, The Wall Street Journal reports
Army authorities say a cutoff date for new tattoos will likely be 60 days after the regulations are finalized, so soldiers looking to acquire some personal artwork still have a bit of time left.
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According to Newsweek, Army Secretary John McHugh agreed to make changes
to regulations governing tattoos just days after soldiers in Germany were told to stay away from some tattoo parlors because of risk of infection with HIV or hepatitis.
The new regulations, when finalized, are expected to prohibit "extremist" tattoos
displaying designs or messages of hatred or intolerance based on race, ethnicity or gender. Tattoos advocating violence or depriving individuals of their rights will also be banned.
Soldiers who do not meet the guidelines and who are not grandfathered in will have to have their tattoos removed
at their own expense.
The changes are upsetting for many soldiers, especially those bent on adding to their ink art collection on a continuing basis.
"Who's going to see our tattoos?" Pvt. Cody Hartman, 21, commented to the Journal. The combat engineer recently added a Chevrolet symbol on his left forearm and wants a chain link fence on his right.
Since combat and dress uniforms have long pants and sleeves, arm and leg tattoos won't "affect professional appearance," Hartman said.
However, an Army spokesman said
the public judges a soldier's discipline by how "he or she wears the uniform, as well as by the individual's personal appearance."
The Army is just now joining the other branches of service in cracking down on tattoos.
The Air Force, for example, bans tattoos that cover more than a quarter of any exposed body part, and, for a while, recruiters could not accept recruits who had tattoos on a saluting arm. That rule, however, has been pulled back.
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The Navy passed rules in 2006 limiting the size of forearm tattoos, and in 2007 the Marine Corps banned sleeve tattoos and below-the-knee leg ink.
A year later, the Marines followed suit, barring heavily-tattooed jarheads from serving in embassy security missions or recruiting positions because the tattoos might affect public perception of the Corps.
This isn't the first time the military has cracked down on tattoos. For example, in 1910, after the War Department banned obscene tattoos, including those of naked women, sailors had them reworked into hula dancers.
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