New tattoo regulations on the way for the U.S. Army

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The U.S. Army is looking to tweak its look, from uniforms to haircuts to body art.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh is expected to sign off on new appearance rules, including one that bars new recruits from having tattoos above their necklines and below the elbows and knees.

State Sergeant Major Michael Gundrum of the Pennsylvania National Guard said it’s all about setting standards and discipline.

“Everybody looks the same, so everybody looks professional, which is basically what the military is, it’s a professional organization,” Gundrum said. “I kind of equate it to a businessman in a three-piece suit, you don’t necessarily see a businessman with tattoos on the back of his hands or running up his neck.”

Current soldiers may be grandfathered in, but any soldier with a tattoo that is deemed racist, sexist or extremist would be required to remove it or leave the service.

“I have tattoos, so depending on where they say they can’t be, I couldn’t enlist,” said Candace Phillips, a YTI Lancaster student who is considering the Army as a career option. “And I think they would get a lot less recruits then, because a lot of people get tattoos. It’s like a self-expression thing.”

Sgt. Major Gundrum acknowledges that the new regulations could negatively affect enlistments. But he said they will also bring out the most serious recruits.

“For those who really want to get into the military, I think once it gets out there and becomes public knowledge that this is the standard that we’re looking for, I think that may curtail some people from getting tattoos, that really want to get into the military,” he said.

The Secretary of the Army still has to sign off on the new rules. They could become policy in as early as a month or two.

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