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Coast Guard inks new tattoo regs

By: Navy Times staff

Coast Guard inks new tattoo regs
Tattoo parlor on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey (Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

In an effort to woo new recruits and align regs with the latest tattoo trends, the Coast Guard on Thursday announced reforms to its ink rules, effective immediately.

“I am pleased to see the Coast Guard’s new tattoo policy reinforces a professional appearance to the public while adopting some of the very same tattoo standards that are now acceptable among the public,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times.

“The new tattoo policy will expand our recruiting candidate pool and provide those already serving in the Coast Guard with a few new options.”

Those new options include:

  • Tattoos or brands, so long as they’re not visible above the collar on the Coast Guard’s Operational Dress Uniform’s crew neck T-shirt;
  • One finger tattoo per hand but it must be between the first knuckle closest to the wrist (base of finger) and the second knuckle on the finger; and,
  • One tattoo per hand but the design can be no larger than an inch in any dimension and must fall between the wrist and the first knuckle closest to the wrist (base of finger).

The liberalized policy allows for a total of one hand tattoo and one finger or ring tattoo per hand. The Coast Guard will continue to ban tattoos on the palms of hands or on thumbs.

Rules governing body piercings and other anatomical modifications have not changed, officials added.

At his annual State of the Coast Guard address on March 21, Adm. Karl Schultz hinted that his sea service would soon ease its tattoo restrictions, along with loosening weight standards and revamping the regs that disqualify single-parent enlistments.

All of that is part of a broader effort to convince more women to enlist and stay in the service.

“They’re small ripples that will lead to a groundswell of cultural change,” Schultz said. “Inclusion allows for development of the critical bonds that will put us on a course to mission success.”


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