December 10, 2009
At a time when our nation is fighting wars on two fronts, the U.S. Air Force recently — and quietly — expanded its policy to ban all forearm tattoos, thus keeping some recruits who had signed up under the old guidelines from heading out to basic training. Thankfully, the move was rescinded as quickly as it was enacted.
According to a report by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, the Air Force expanded its standing policy — which bars “obscene” and “excessive” tattoos — to “prohibit tattoos on the right forearm after a recent review of more than 6,000 trainees found at least 80 with inappropriate tattoos. The Air Force said it wanted to tighten its rules to ensure members were ‘portraying a professional military image.’ ”
The Air Force returned to its guidelines on “obscene” and “excessive” tattoos, but who sets the bar for “excessive?” And while all branches of the military are within their rights to establish standards for recruits, it seems arm ink should not register as part of that threshold. Popeye was a top-notch sailor man, but that tattoo on his forearm would have kept him out of the Air Force under the now-discarded mandate.
Tattoos are not for everyone, but it is hard to see how a forearm tat would prevent an airman from performing his or her duties properly. This is not about lowering standards, it is about going beyond appearances to find the value of a person who wants to serve their country.