Airmen Can Now Get Tatted Up Under New Air Force Policy


The Air Force made significant revisions to its tattoo and medical exemption policy for new recruits, aligning its rules closer to other branches of service, the Air Force said Tuesday.

“We are opening the aperture on certain medical accession criteria and tattoos while taking into account our needs for worldwide deployability and our commitment to the profession of arms,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement.

One of the most significant changes is the elimination of the so called “25 percent rule,” which barred recruits from tattoos covering more than one-quarter of their extremities, such as arms, legs and backs, said 1st Lt. Erin Ranaweera, a spokeswoman for Air Force recruiting.

The elimination of the rule will now allow for “sleeve” tattoos, which cover significant portions of arms and legs and are popular among young people the Air Force looks to target for recruitment.

Air Force officials hope the change will slow hemorrhaging of recruits to other services who sought more relaxed tattoo policies. The Army and Navy allow sleeve ink, though the Marines still have restrictive policies on the size of tattoos, Stars and Stripes reported in June.

The Air Force tattoo policy has been in effect since 1998, according to service dress and appearance manuals. But the Air Force reviewed the tattoo policy in the last year and determined it was out of step with the other services, Ranaweera said.

“Ours was the most stringent,” she said. “It kept us from recruiting folks, which meant we referred them to other services. It is great for them, but not great for the Air Force.”

Via U.S. Air Force

The Air Force has a target of 325,000 active-duty airmen this fiscal year, Ranaweera said. There were slightly more than 317,000 airmen as of November, according to Pentagon data.

About 50 percent of potential recruits have tattoos, with as many as 20 percent of them with potentially disqualifying ink, the Air Force release stated.

An odd quirk to the tattoo policy was also changed, Ranaweera said. Previously, new recruits were prohibited from single band ring tattoos, though airmen were permitted that type of tattoo once they were in the force.

Now potential recruits with ring tattoos on their fingers can move through the evaluation process, she said. Tattoos on arms are permitted up to the wrist.

The Air Force, along with the other branches, still restrict racist, sexist and other discriminatory symbols, the release stated. Tattoos that violate policy are screened during initial medical evaluations in medical depots before recruits join basic training.

The Air Force also relaxed medical ascension policies Monday for conditions related to eczema, asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Those conditions topped the list of medical waiver requests, the release stated.

Potential recruits will be given waivers for minor eczema, while candidates with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder must demonstrate 15 months of school or job performance without medication to be considered. Candidates with asthma must past an objective breathing test to receive a waiver, the release stated.

Other changes include policies on marijuana use before the recruitment process. Previously, recruiters had a cap on enlistees who used the drug as a civilian, which is now legal in various forms in 26 states and the District of Columbia.

Legal proceedings relating to marijuana use will be reviewed, the release stated.

The medical waiver changes go into effect immediately, while the tattoo policies take effect Feb. 1, the release stated.

Air Force recruiters, most often the first personnel who meet civilians interested in joining the military, were instrumental in the policy change after reporting the often frustrating limitations placed on willing recruits, Ranaweera said.

“Recruiters helped supply data to headquarters to help us change the policy forever,” she said.


©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Hospital Corpsman, 3rd Class, Jennifer Rooney, who was immediately promoted after selection through the Meritorious Promotion Program, was pinned in a ceremony Sept. 20, 2019, by her father, Robert Rooney, and grandfather, John Rooney. (U.S. Marine Corps/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Molina)

A U.S.S. Manchester, CL-83, hat firmly tucked on his head, John Ronney, pierced the collar of his granddaughter, Jennifer Rooney's new rank during a special pinning ceremony at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune on Sept. 25.

By Rooney's side was his son and Jennifer's father Robert, a Navy veteran. Together, three Navy veterans brought together for military tradition.

"They are the two people who taught me everything I needed to know about the Navy," said Jennifer.

Read More Show Less

CAMP PENDLETON — The military prosecution of a Coast Guardsman accused of murder began Wednesday with a preliminary hearing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 21, was arrested August 28 after a seven-month Coast Guard investigation into the January death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, 19, who served on the same ship as Tucker— the Kodiak, Alaska-based high endurance cutter Douglas Munro.

Read More Show Less

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and "crush the heads of terrorists" if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented.

Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.

Read More Show Less

President Trump stoked confusion Friday by declaring the U.S. has "secured the Oil" in the Middle East amid continued fallout from the Turkish invasion of northern Syria that he enabled by pulling American troops out of the region.

It wasn't immediately clear what the president was talking about, as there were no publicly known developments in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East relating to oil. White House aides did not return requests for comment.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. State Department investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has found no evidence of deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees.

The investigation, the results of which were released on Friday by Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley's office, centered on whether Clinton, who served as the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, jeopardized classified information by using a private email server rather than a government one.

Read More Show Less