Policy changes coming to dress and appearance

Base Info
Visual representation of the new Air Force tattoo policy
Visual representation of the new Air Force tattoo policy

Policy changes coming to dress and appearance

by: Airman 1st Class Juan Torres | .
Yokota Air Base | .
published: January 20, 2017

Yokota Air Base, Japan --  A new policy change for Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, regarding tattoos will take effect Feb. 1, 2017.

“I believe this will open a whole new door for individuals that have wanted to join the military but have been set back by their tattoos,” said Airman 1st Class Ashley Dennis, 730th Air Mobility Squadron special handling technician. “I know a few friends back home that are joining now due to the policy being changed.”

In 1998, the Air Force established a policy that prohibited excessive tattoos, brands, and body markings. Excessive was defined as exceeding 25 percent of the exposed body part and readily visible when wearing any uniform combination. Airmen were required to completely cover excessive tattoos, brands, and body markings with current uniform items, alter the tattoo so it is not visible, or remove it.

The primary reason behind the policy was to lessen associated health risks and establish guidelines for proper, professional military appearance while in uniform.

Evaluation of tattoo regulations began in April 2016 in accordance with AFI 33-360 required periodic review. In August 2016 Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James announced a review of personal appearance and uniform policy.

“As part of our effort to attract and retain as many qualified Airmen as possible we periodically review our accessions policies,” said James. “In this instance, we identified specific changes we can make to allow more members of our nation to serve without compromising quality. As a next step in this evolution, 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."

According to Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, a recent review and data collection by field recruiters reported that around 46 percent of contacts, applicants, and recruits had tattoos. Of those, approximately 18 percent were found to have tattoos requiring review or were disqualified for entry due to tattoos exceeding Air Force standards.

It was found that the determining disqualifier was the 25 percent rule on excessive tattoos. Recommended policy changes address these results head on. The recommended policy changes are:

- Eliminates the 25 percent rule and removes size limitations to tattoos on the chest, back, arms, and legs
- Provides a clear definition of prohibited tattoos on the neck, face, head, tongue, lips, and/or scalp
- Limits hand tattoos to one single-band ring tattoo, on one finger, on one hand
- Grandfathers serving Airmen who are in compliance with the current hand policy

The revised policy also removes ambiguity on size and placement and is much easier for Airmen to understand and simpler for the Air Force to implement.

“I love tattoos,” said Dennis. “It's a way to express yourself and tell a story with each piece of artwork. Now I will be able to finish my sleeve without any setbacks such as being forced to wear long sleeve shirts in 100 degree weather.

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