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Body art must fit military image

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- The history of tattoos can be traced back thousands of years. Archaeologists discovered tattoos on Italy’s very own 5,200 year old “Iceman.” Tattoos disappeared from Western society for many years, but re-emerged in the 1760s. Sailors from the ship of Capt. James Cook returned from the Polynesians proudly sporting their new body art. The royal court was so fascinated by these tattoos, that King George V had himself tattooed with the Cross of Jerusalem and a dragon on a later visit to Japan.

Tattoos have been a military tradition for many years. It is a common practice for Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, and Airman to get tattoos related to their campaigns, assignments, ships or other military related achievements. As a child, my best friend’s dad had the Army rank of sergeant first class placed on his forearm along with the 81st Airborne insignia.

While tattoos are a military tradition, as an Air Force member, you must always maintain a professional military image.

AFI 36-2903 provides guidance on tattoos/brands, body piercings and body modifications.

Inappropriate tattoos cover more then one-fourth of the exposed body part or visible above the collar of the uniform. Inappropriate tattoos must be covered by the uniform or surgically removed. In some instances, commanders can seek medical support for the removal of inappropriate tattoos.

Unauthorized tattoos are obscene, advocate sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination and prohibited in and out of uniform. Unauthorized tattoos are prohibited in or out of uniform whether covered or exposed.

AFI 36-2903 also places limitations on body piercings. The limitations are designed to ensure Air Force personnel present a positive military image.

Basically, males are not allowed to have any visible piercings when in uniform or on duty. Males are not to have any visible body piercings such as a pierced tongue when on a military installation. Body piercings that can be seen through your uniform/clothes are considered visible.

For women, the same restrictions apply with the exception of earrings. Women are authorized to wear one earring in each ear while in uniform or on duty. When off-duty, but on a military installation, women are allowed to wear more then one earring in each ear, but the piercings must be in their ear lobes and the earrings must be in good taste.

Finally, any intentional body modification which detracts from a professional military image is prohibited. Dental ornamentation -- the use of gold, platinum or other veneers or caps for decorative purposes is also prohibited.

Feel free to express yourself but remember to maintain your professional military image.