Marine Corps reviewing tattoo policy

First Posted: 6:34 am - October 2nd, 2015

By Thomas Crisp - Contributing Columnist

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The long-awaited results of an internal review of the Corps’ tattoo policy may be pushed out to Marines as early as this month, the top enlisted Marine said this week. The Marine Corps expects to release a service-wide administrative message announcing the review’s findings within weeks, Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green told Marine Corps Times in an exclusive interview.

The message is expected to provide Marines with better clarity on their tattoo policy — but it first must be reviewed by Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford. Multiple Pentagon sources have said the panel reviewing the tattoo policy recommended no major changes, and the forthcoming message will only clarify and reconcile any inconsistencies.

But Green said nothing was certain until the commandant gave final approval.

“The policy’s not final until he signs it,” Green said, adding that Dunford could still send it back and tell them to take another stab at it. While Green did not detail the changes, pending Dunford’s final approval, he said professional image had been a top concern in examining possible changes while ensuring that “every Marine is heard in formulating this policy.”

“America … (looks) for a certain image in the Marine Corps,” Green said. “We want to make sure that the image that we project is the image that America wants (and one) that the Marine Corps can live with.”

Marines have long complained about the Corps’ tattoo policy, calling it too restrictive and confusing. In April, Sgt. Daniel Knapp, a North Carolina-based infantryman who was the subject of a Marine Corps Times cover story, said the unclear policy cost him his career.

When he got a crossed rifles tattoo on his arm, Knapp said he didn’t know it would run afoul of the service’s policy. He had the tattoo for four years before it became an issue, he said.

“They didn’t have an issue meritoriously promoting me when I had a tattoo,” he said. “I had never heard anything about my tattoos. Nothing was said until I went to the career planner.”

Green said service leaders are committed to making sure the new policy is clearly written so it can be easily understood and enforced. The policy message will be accompanied by visual aids that clearly illustrate tattoos that fall in and out of regulation. Those visual guides are expected to be available online and on smartphone applications.

The review of the Corps’ tattoo policy, which is overseen by top enlisted leaders, was first announced in late March in response to feedback from Marines. Marine working groups have been meeting to solidify details about potential policy changes, said Maj. Rob Dolan, a spokesman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, which is also involved in the review.

Green said Marines are ready for any changes to be set so they can make decisions about tattoos without fear for their careers.

“The consensus I’ve gotten lately, traveling around, is they don’t want to talk about it anymore,” he said. “They just want the policy.” Regardless of what the final policy update permits, Green said he expects Marines to fall in line. “Once that policy goes out, that MARADMIN, (the commandant) expects every Marine to take a full 30-inch step and follow the policy,” Green said. “That’s the end state.”

By Thomas Crisp

Contributing Columnist

Thomas Crisp is a retired military officer from Whitmire.


Thomas Crisp is a retired military officer from Whitmire.


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