View Full Version : Hearts on their sleeves

10-17-06, 01:08 PM
October 23, 2006 <br />
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Hearts on their sleeves <br />
Many leathernecks use tattoos to mourn buddies, but the Corps is considering banning some art <br />
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By Gidget Fuentes and Trista Talton <br />
Staff writers <br />

10-17-06, 01:23 PM
Fair tattoo rules needed
The Marine Corps Times

When the Corps' sergeants major gathered in August for their annual symposium, they tackled a raft of meaty issues. But to hear Sgt. Maj. John Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, tell it, the issue of tattoos raised the most pulses.

That's because top enlisted leaders are, once again, taking a hard look at the issue of tattoo "sleeves" - body art that lives between the elbow and wrist, and more important, is visible when Marines wear T-shirts.

The recommendation working its way up the chain of command is a harsh one: ban Marines from getting sleeves once the policy goes into effect; process Marines for administrative separation if they get a sleeve after the ban; and "grandfather" Marines who already have sleeves.

In addition, officials at Manpower and Reserve Affairs would become the authority designating what's allowed and what's not. Sort of like a centralized tattoo cop.

The key to making all of this work is clarity. The greatest weakness of the existing policy is how vague it is. Besides the no-hands-no-neck prohibition, the 3-year-old rules also say that someone with "too many tattoos" could face punishment. Yet it doesn't say how many is too many.

In addition, Marines who followed the existing rules but who wanted to become Marine Security Guards, drill instructors or recruiters found those doors closed to them if they had sleeves.

Vague rules like these can hurt morale, especially if two Marines who know each other and have similar body art face different standards when applying for follow-on assignments.

In this case, the new recommendation goes well beyond the issue of sleeves. By creating rules - and one office overseeing those rules - it gets to the heart of the double standard many leathernecks feel when it comes to tattoo regs. Marine leaders need to tread carefully, and make sure that rules governing one's ink truly are black and white.