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Tattoos or brands that are visible in a class A uniform (worn with slacks/trousers) are prohibited (see exception in paragraph below). Tattoos or brands that are extremist, indecent, sexist or racist are prohibited, regardless of location on the body, as they are prejudicial to good order and discipline within units. Extremist tattoos or brands are those affiliated with, depicting, or symbolizing extremist philosophies, organizations or activities.

Indecent tattoos or brands are those that are grossly offensive to modesty, decency, or propriety; shock the moral sense because of their vulgar, filthy, or disgusting nature or tendency to incite lustful thought; or tend reasonably to corrupt morals or incite libidinous thoughts. Sexist tattoos or brands are those that advocate a philosophy that degrades or demeans a person based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. Racist tattoos or brands are those that advocate a philosophy that degrades or demeans a person based on race, ethnicity, or national origin.

Commanders must ensure soldiers understand the tattoo policy. For soldiers who are not in compliance, commanders may not order the removal of a tattoo or brand. However, the commander must counsel soldiers, and afford them the opportunity to seek medical advice about removal or alteration of the tattoo or brand.

If soldiers are not in compliance with the policy, and refuse to remove or alter the tattoos or brands, commanders-

  • Ensure the soldier understands the policy.
  • Ensure the soldier has been afforded the opportunity to seek medical advice about the removal or alteration.
  • Counsel the soldier in writing. The counseling form will state that the soldier’s refusal to remove extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist tattoos or brands anywhere on the body, or refusal to remove any type of tattoo or brand visible in the class A uniform (worn with slacks/trousers) will result in discharge.
  • Existing tattoos or brands on the hands that are not extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist, but are visible in the class A uniform are authorized for soldiers who entered the Army before 1 July 2002. Soldiers who entered the Army 1 July 2002 and later may not have tattoos that are visible in the Class A uniform.
  • Soldiers may not cover tattoos or brands in order to comply with the tattoo policy.

Unit commanders or executive officers make determinations on the appropriateness of tattoos for soldiers currently on active duty. This authority cannot be further delegated. Any such determination must be fully documented in writing and include a description of existing tattoos or brands and their location on the body. The soldier will receive a copy of the determination.

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