Army restrictions on tattoos unreasonable

In Opinion
Courtesy of Erik De Castro
Courtesy of Erik De Castro

Tattoos, still one of the most controversial yet popular forms of expression, have caused conflict once again with the Army’s strict policy to ban any noticeable ink below the knee or elbow.

The ban to prohibit such tattoos seems a bit rash, considering the Army’s duty is to protect and serve the country while constantly risking soldier’s lives for the benefit of a safer and greater United States.

Within the country’s five branches of service, including the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, the Army faces the strictest restrictions on tattoos if this policy is approved. With war winding down, the military now has the ability to be more selective about their recruits and the requirements soldiers have to meet.

According to Time, Raymond Chandler was promoted to Sgt. Maj. of the Army in 2011. Upon his promotion, Chandler argued for a sterner tattoo policy.

“The appearance of tattoos detracts from a uniformed service,” Chandler said. “You are part of something larger.”

Chandler’s comments seem to be harsh, considering military men are covered by their uniforms for the majority of the day. As for the sense of individualism a tattoo brings, these individuals are fighting for their country. Therefore, that should allow them to sport any tattoos they please, wherever and whenever.

Despite the negative perception of tattoos that some individuals have, a tattoo on a person’s body usually has more meaning than just another public statement.

America’s service members should be judged on their actions, bravery and ability on the battlefield, not on the amount of ink tattooed on their bodies.

In addition to the preposterous policy, Chandler proposed a requirement that those soldiers who do not comply with the tattoo protocol will be required to pay for tattoo removal themselves.

Of course, Chandler received a rightfully insurmountable amount of criticism from both soldiers and civilians for the proposed tattoo policy.

According to the Daily Beast, “the initial wave of reaction on military blogs and social media has been largely negative. Many commenters cite the tattoo standard as antiquated and a poor indication of a soldier’s ability to perform the job. Others say body art has become a large part of the Army’s own culture, resurrecting an argument that surfaced when rumors of the new tattoo policy started circulating in 2011.”

Keep in mind that numerous soldiers bear tattoos of their fallen squadmates who have fought and died beside them in war. For Chandler to even touch upon the subject of tattoo removal would not only be disrespectful to the fallen friends themselves, but also a slap in the face to those who bear the memorial ink.

However, soldiers who were recruited under the existing tattoo policy would be “grandfathered” and allowed to keep their tattoos so long as they do not contain any “racist, sexist, or extremist words or symbolism.”

According to, a military-dedicated website, Chandler said the policy “is a matter of maintaining a uniform look and sacrificing for the sake of the force.”

Sacrificing for the sake of the force? As if the Army does not sacrifice enough.

Respectively, Chandler should channel his restrictive efforts elsewhere such as focusing on the future of America’s military.

He should set a better example of someone in his authoritative role and be more proactive in his direction for dictation, disregard soldiers’ choices of expression and instead focus on the task at hand, like protecting this country.

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  • Ajinomoto

    Tattoos are on drunks and drug addicts.