Navy easing tattoo policy, becoming branch with most relaxed standards

Chef Mike Hardin, one of three chefs forming the Mess Lords, displays his tattoos. The group cooked for galley patrons as part of a two-day event at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti during September 2013. The event was sponsored by Navy Entertainment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Dietrich/Released)

The Navy has announced that starting April 30th, its policy on tattoos will become a lot more lenient.

The service is easing its tattoo policy mainly because it’s hoping to recruit and retain more sailors, particularly millennials.  Unofficial research by top Navy officials found that among those in the 18-25 age range, 37-40%  sport body art.

“That’s not insignificant,” says Mike Stevens, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. “We need to make sure that we’re not missing any opportunities to recruit and retain the best and the brightest because of our policies,” Stevens said.

Sailors’ feedback led to the changes in policy.  Most of them agreed that body art unfairly barred them from jobs that could help them advance. So, under these new guidelines sailors with sleeve tattoos or tattoos below the elbow or knee, or on the neck,  will still be eligible for recruiting duty or for leading recruits at boot camp in Illinois.

The new policy also allows tattoos behind the ears– only heads are off limits.  Also, the content guidelines haven’t changed so still banned are “tattoos that are obscene, sexually explicit, and or advocate discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.”

“In addition, tattoos that symbolize affiliation with gangs, supremacist or extremist groups, or advocate illegal drug use are prohibited — waivers will not be given for tattoos with prohibited content,” the service said.

The updated tattoo policy does not apply to Marines, even those who serve at Navy commands, the Navy Times reported.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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