View Full Version : Marines Corps ban on visible tattoos draws criticism

01-21-09, 07:59 AM
Marines Corps ban on visible tattoos draws criticism
Regulation meant to keep clean image causes upset

Hayley Gula

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Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Updated: Saturday, December 13, 2008

They mark his forearm, bicep, upper back and both of his calves.

For Josh Schumacker, a machine gunner in the U.S. Marine Corps based at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., said these tattoos have a personal meaning.

But, a new Marine regulation placed restrictions on tattoos like Schumacker's tattoos.

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, James T. Conway, enacted April 1 a regulation that banned any tattoo below the elbow and the knee.

The new regulation is to avoid tattoos from being seen in the Service C uniform, or the Charlie uniform, according to John Jones, a junior in business management and a midshipman in the Marine ROTC program.

The new regulation, he said, focused on banning tattoos from being visible below the Charlie line, or below the bottom of the uniform sleeve.

The Charlie uniform consists of a short-sleeve khaki shirt and green trousers that Marines wear for official visits with other military personnel, court martials or onshore duty. Female service uniforms include optional skirt uniforms, and exposure of tattoos on the legs would be visible.

"We want to preserve the unit by preserving the bodies and not tattooing them up to make us look like a biker gang," Sean Christensen, a senior in business management and a midshipman in the Marine ROTC program, said.

Christensen enlisted in the Marine Corps almost 10 years ago and is serving at the rank of a gunnery sergeant. He said he has six tattoos, all of which are on his back.

"Looking at me, nobody would know that I had a tattoo," Christensen said.

He said he feels people are unconsciously biased about people with tattoos.

"The commandant is trying to push forward a better image of a Marine," Christensen said.

Schumacker said he felt the Marine Corps was becoming "too sensitive."

"They are worrying too much about the little things like tattoos," Schumacker said. "What we should be worried about is good training, which is to kill the enemy and leave."

Schumacker said he felt tattoos had no effect on training.

"They didn't even tell us why they made the rule," Schumacker said.

According to Schumacker, he feels his fellow brothers in the Marines are indifferent about the new regulation and will continue to get tattoos. He said tattoos made Marines more intimidating and gave the impression of one being "aggressive."

Jones said tattooing is a rite of passage, especially for the Marines in the infantry "where the camaraderie is tight."

The enlisted Marines will be the most affected because officers were already held to this standard, according to Jones.

Regarding the regulation, Jones said he plans on getting a tattoo of the Marine insignia after commissioning as an officer.

"[The new regulation] won't affect Marines too much, just where they get them," Jones said.

The Marines are held to a higher standard than other military branches, according to Christensen.

Sgt. First Class Randall Armstrong, an Army recruiter in Raleigh, said the Army is more lenient on tattoos than the Marine Corps or the Navy.

Armstrong said the Army was more restrictive about tattoos at one point but had to adapt more to society and the popularity of tattoos.

He said he has a total of four tattoos on his body and had to turn people away from enlisting into the Army because of their tattoos.

"You don't want a bunch of tattooed people looking like a bunch of thugs representing your country," Armstrong said.

Marines who had tattoos on their forearms and legs before the new regulation had pictures document their tattoos, so they are grandfathered into the rule, according to Schumaker.

He said that Marines who already had the tattoos could keep them as long as they showed picture documentation but could not get news ones.

Christensen said he believed the new regulation is a positive movement for the Marines.

"A Marine not only represents his family and himself, but he represents the unit he is in and most importantly, represents the Marine Corps," Christensen said.