The Army is on the verge of banning tattoos on soldiers' arms and legs, a first for the American military since a New York City tattoo parlor first put ink on the military during the Civil War.
According to Stars and Stripes
, new rules have been drawn up on appearance and grooming for soldiers and are awaiting the signature of Army Secretary John McHugh.
Under the pending changes to current Army regulation 670-1
, tattoos will be outlawed on the forearms, below the knees, and above the neckline.
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The announcement was made in Afghanistan by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler, who told troops in two separate town-hall-like meetings, "We're just waiting for the secretary to sign."
The rule change, expected to take effect in 30-60 days, also requires soldiers to remove any tattoos the Army deems offensive.
"Current soldiers may be grandfathered in, but all soldiers will still be barred from having any tattoos that are racist, sexist, or extremist," according to Stars and Stripes."Once the rules are implemented, soldiers will sit down with their unit leaders and 'self identify' each tattoo. Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy."
Smith noted that the changes apply only to Army personnel and not to other branches of the military, each of which has its own set of regulations on appearance and grooming.
The announcement did not go over well with some soldiers, who questioned why the Army was suddenly concerned about visible tattoos. According to the Stars and Stripes report, Chandler told the troops it was a matter of maintaining a uniform look and order for the good of the Army.
Chandler reportedly questioned why a soldier, for example, would want a curse word or offensive symbol on his or her neck.
"I question, 'Why there? Are you trying to stand out?'" Chandler reportedly said, adding that the Army wants soldiers to be recognized for their achievements, not how they look.
According to the National Journal
, the pending changes mark "a step up in severity from current regulations" because commanders will now be able to force the removal of any tattoos determined to be offensive. In the past, the guidelines suggested that they only "counsel" the solider on why an offending tattoo should be removed.
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