LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - You may want to think before you ink, that is, if you plan on joining the military. New guidelines on hairstyles, grooming, uniform wear and tattoos went into effect back in March. The new policy on tattoos is likely the biggest change impacting soldiers.
Tattoo Charlie's, is as permanent of a fixture in the Louisville area, as the ink. Owner Buddy Wheeler gives his customers plenty of warning about the new military guidelines.
"A lot of military," said Wheeler. "Military has always been the biggest segment of the population that had tattoos."
The extensive revision and update to Army Regulation 670-1 comes as the Army pushes for a more professional force and transitions from more than 12 years of war. Soldiers are now prohibited from having tattoos on their head, face, neck, wrists, hands and fingers.
Soldiers are allowed no more than four visible tattoos below the elbow or below the knee and these tattoos must be smaller than thesize of the wearer's hand. Consequently, the Army has to recruit according to these new standards.
"Our Army has always prided itself on military appearance, uniforms, and proper grooming and these changes support that commitment," said Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Ray Chandler.
"Actually it think it's a good policy," said Wheeler. "I don't think having a restriction on forearm tattoo and calf tattoo, I don't see why that makes that big of a difference though."
Wheeler says even as popular as tattoos are, there is still a stigma against them. That's why he always warns his customers who are thinking of joining the military to think twice about getting a tattoo that could potentially hold back their career.
"They will keep them from moving up in the ranks," said Wheeler.
A recent report shows that 75 percent of the nation's 17 to 24-year-olds are ineligible for service for a variety of reasons. Along with tattoos, conduct, age, citizenship, education and physical condition are also disqualifying factors.
The Army says they have always disqualified applicants who have tattoos that are racist, gang related and in poor taste. Active military, who are already have tattoos, are grandfathered in.