Army is flexible on tattoos

08/15/2014 5:37 PM

08/15/2014 5:49 PM

The Army fortunately has learned to be more flexible in recruiting today’s young adults.

Restrictions on certain tattoos that went into effect in the spring have had to be relaxed. Maj. Gen. Allen W. Batschelet told The Star that the policy would have resulted in the loss of 2,500 enlistments a year.

It’s no wonder. A lot of teenagers and young adults have tattoos and elaborate body art. A Harris poll in 2012 found that more than 20 percent of people ages 18 to 39 have tattoos. In comparison, only 11 percent of people ages 50 to 64 and 5 percent of those age 65 and older have tattoos.

The Army recruiting policy is right to ban indecent, sexist and racist tattoos that demean a person based on race, ethnicity or national origin. But it also prohibits large tattoos on recruits’ forearms, calves, hands, neck, face and head.

The Army restricts the size and number of tattoos visible when a person is in uniform or exercising in shorts and a T-shirt.

The reason is obvious. The Army wants people in the military who best represent the traditional clean-cut, buff and polished look of persons in the service.

But the Army has had to change somewhat to keep up with the diversity of young adults. People with tattoos wanting to enlist in the all-volunteer Army can apply for a waiver. Batschelet, as commanding general at the national recruiting headquarters, said his office in the last month had endorsed 45 waiver requests from hundreds nationwide involving disqualifying ink.

That’s smart. The military is in competition with businesses and higher education for the best, brightest and most physically fit young people. Ruling out a large chunk of folks just because of tattoos doesn’t really make good sense.

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