Air Force easing tattoo policy to boost recruitment - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Air Force easing tattoo policy to boost recruitment

Starting February 1, the Air Force will ease up on its tattoo restrictions for potential new recruits and current airmen. (Photo source: WLOX) Starting February 1, the Air Force will ease up on its tattoo restrictions for potential new recruits and current airmen. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

Black Dragon Tattoo sits right outside Keesler Air Force Base's gate. Tattoo artist Travis Wade says he gets plenty of military business, and it may be about to increase. Starting February 1, the Air Force will ease up on its tattoo restrictions for potential new recruits and current airmen. 

"I was tattooing a kid a week before the rule came out, and we were working on a half-sleeve. And we stopped up on his arm, because he couldn't go all the way down his forearm," Wade said. 

Under the previous Air Force tattoo rules, recruits with tattoos covering more than 25 percent of their bodies could be disqualified from joining. That has now been eliminated in an effort to boost recruitment.

"I do a lot more of that stuff these days than I ever did," Wade said. "Back in the day, 10 or 15 years ago, you would do a bunch of little Sailor Jerry tattoos, and fill in it in with some background. Nowadays, a whole tattoo is one arm, and it's not a lot of pieces together, it's just one big piece."

Air Force officials say one in every five people considering signing up had tattoos requiring review or that could be considered disqualifying under the old rules. So the rule change is good news for recruiters. 

The change in regulations will allow both arm and leg sleeve tattoos.  And, tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs and will not be restricted in size. But, ink on the neck, face, and head is still banned for airmen.

Other military branches have their own tattoo rules. The Navy allows neck tattoos, sleeves, and markings behind the ears. The Army allows sleeves, but not neck or hand tattoos. And while the Marines have eased their tattoo rules in recent years, they still restrict sleeves.

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