The Army Recruiting Command in Phoenix has announced that approximately 100 men and women in El Paso have been denied enlistment in the Army over controversial tattoo policy violations.
The new tattoo policy, known as Army Regulation 670-1, went into effect March 31 this year. Dictating appearance standards for all uniformed soldiers, the regulation prohibits recruits from having: tattoos on the neck, face, head, hands, wrists, fingers; more than four tattoos below the elbow or knee; or ear gauges. The policy further mandates that individual tattoos be smaller than the recruit's hand, specifying that clustered mini-tattoos will be considered as one large tattoo if they appear as such.
Some find the new policy unfair. Capt. Joshua Jacquez, who recruits for the Army in El Paso, explained that many applicants have
"been wanting to join the military since they were kids and they're not able to"
simply because they have tattoos or ear gauges.
Nonetheless, Lt. Col. Jennifer McAfee of the Army Recruiting Command in Phoenix does not believe the policy has hurt recruitment numbers.
"We're still putting many men and women in the Army, even though the Army's drawing down,"
McAfee shared, adding that the Army is still "on track to make" their goal of 57,000 Army recruits in 2014.
As to the policy's underlying rationale, some speculate that it has much to do with tradition. Army Veteran John Ceballos, for example, explained that in the 1960s and 70s,
"[service members] weren't allowed to have tattoos" on account of it being "distracting" and overall "not good etiquette in the appearance of a soldier."
Should new recruits opt for tattoo removal, they may still violate the policy.
"[T]hey have to be careful about who they go to [for removal] because they might leave a branding,"
McAfee cautioned, referring to a permanent burn mark – a potential side effect of tattoo removal which can also disqualify a recruit from enlisting.
"The Army is definitely a profession and we uphold discipline and standards, and that's what our leaders decided to do, change the policy for tattoos," McAfee explained.