Marine Commandant Opens Up About Controversial Tattoo Policy


Editor’s Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

It's a fact of life: Marines love their tattoos. And despite updates to regulations in 2016 that clarified rules and gave troops slightly more flexibility on where they can put their ink, some still complain that the Corps is too restrictive, keeping out some potential recruits and resulting in denied reenlistment for others.

Some services are making dramatic changes in order to improve recruiting among millennials. The Navy in 2016 adapted the military's most lax tattoo rules, changing its policy to allow neck tattoos, sleeves, and even tattoos behind the ears. By contrast, Marine Corps rules remain relatively restrictive, barring full sleeve tattoos and limiting the size of ink designs that wrap around an arm or leg.

In an interview with in December, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller revealed the one thing that would prompt him to reconsider current tattoo restrictions.

"If the recruiters came to me and said, 'we can't make mission with this policy,' I would have to go back and look," Neller said.

And he asks recruiters about the matter regularly, he said. Neller said he has a practice of approaching recruiters at national meetings and inquiring if they have trouble making monthly quotas because they have to turn away prospective recruits with tattoos. So far, he said, he has always been told that recruiters are making mission, even with regulations in place.

"So do we lose certain applicants? Yes. But [recruiters] can make it? Yes," Neller said.

Neller said he's not concerned with being a stickler, and doesn't want to deny applicants who are just over the line, with a tattoo that falls a quarter inch into a no-ink zone or a word hidden under a watch band.

That said, he's not inclined to give in on one of the most common requests from inked-up Marines.

"I'm not doing sleeves; I'm not," he said. "My wife [D'Arcy Neller] disagrees with me, she thinks I'm stupid. She says, 'How can you judge them on their ink?' I said, 'I don't judge them; I just don't want them being Marines.'"

There have been times in the past when commandants' spouses have swayed them on matters of personnel policy. In 2014, then-commandant Gen. Jim Amos reversed his unpopular decision requiring Marines to wear their sleeves rolled down, saying his wife, Bonnie Amos had "beat the crap out of him" over the matter.

In this case, though, Neller said it goes to the identity and image of the Marine Corps.

"This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we're tattooing our face. We're not a biker gang, we're not a rock and roll band. We're not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine," Neller said. "You can get 70 percent of your body covered with ink and still be a Marine. Is that enough?"

This article originally appeared on

More from

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials are warning soldiers and military families to be aware of scammers using the Exchange's logo.

In a news release Wednesday, Exchange officials said scammers using the name "Exchange Inc." have "fooled" soldiers and airmen to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and boat engines.

Read More Show Less

KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.

The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.

Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.

The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.

In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea

Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.

The couple flew the flag of Puerto Rico on the garage of their Kissimmee home. It ticked off the homeowners association.

Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."

Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.

Read More Show Less
Todd Rosenberg/AP

A West Point graduate received a waiver from the U.S. Army to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, and play in the NFL while serving as an active-duty soldier.

The waiver for 2nd Lt. Brett Toth was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who said that Toth signed a three-year deal with the Eagles. Toth graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2018.

Read More Show Less