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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Marines will be prohibited from getting sleeve tattoos beginning April 1. Those who already have them will be grandfathered into this new policy keeping them competitive for promotions.

Photo by Sgt. Salju K. Thomas

Corps clarifies tattoo policy

20 Mar 2007 | Sgt. Salju K. Thomas

The Marine Corps is clarifying its tattoo policy according to Marine administrative message 198.

“This clarification came about because there was room for interpretation of the old policy,” said Lt. Col T.V. Johnson, spokesman for the commandant of the Marine Corps. “The commandant had this issue come up at every town hall meeting that he attended and wanted to make the policy fair across the board, squashing any margin for error.”

The message details new guidelines for Marines with tattoos, specifically, restricting them from getting sleeve tattoos while protecting those who already have them.

“Effective April 1, Marines are prohibited from getting sleeve tattoos,” said Capt. Stephen T. Foster, military policy analyst, Manpower Plans and Policy Division, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps. “Those individuals who have sleeve tattoos are required to be documented by their command by July 1.”

A sleeve tattoo is a very large tattoo, or collection of smaller tattoos, that covers or almost covers a person’s entire arm or leg. Half-sleeve or quarter-sleeve tattoos that are visible to the eye when wearing a standard physical training T-shirt and shorts are likewise prohibited.

Marines who currently have sleeve tattoos need to have them photographed by their command and have them documented in their service record books to be grandfathered into this policy.

“The grandfathering clause is to protect Marines who currently have sleeve tattoos,” said Foster. “By being grandfathered they will be as competitive for promotion and retention as their peers who do not have such tattoos.”

The new policy should not have an effect on recruiting numbers, said Foster. “The policy change is not any more stringent than the guidelines used by the Recruiting Command,” he said.

Marines can contact their administrative office for more information.