The Marine Corps has updated its policy on tattoo sleeves as it pertains to special duty assignments.
Per Marine Administrative Message 494/08, signed Sept. 4, Marines with tattoo sleeves are no longer authorized to serve as a recruiter or Marine Security Guard. This applies to those Marines who had their sleeves grandfathered prior to the July 1, 2007 deadline, stated in the March 2007 MarAdmin, which prohibits getting sleeve tattoos.
It defined sleeve tattoos as a large tattoo or collection of smaller tattoos that covers or almost covers a person’s arm or leg. This also includes half and quarter sleeves if they are visible in green-on-green, physical training gear.
According to the newly-signed MarAdmin, recruiters and Marine security guards have a significant impact on public perception as they routinely interact with civilians, both at home and aboard, in the daily performance of their duties. Marines, who have been grandfathered, may still apply for Marine combat instructor, drill instructor or Marine Corps security forces guard.
“Sleeve tattoos degrade our professional Marine image,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron McMullen, canvassing recruiter, Recruiting Substation Clarksville, Ind., Recruiting Station Louisville, Ky. “We keep our uniforms pressed, our brass shiny and our shoes polished. Sleeve tattoos don’t fit with that image.”
Marines with tattoo sleeves who are already on recruiting will be allowed to finish their tours however, recruiters wishing to submit a career-recruiter package “may not be favorably viewed” but will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The decision will ultimately rest with the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.
According to Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Nale, career retention specialist, Headquarters and Service Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Marines interested in applying for recruiting or MSG need to get all their tattoos, visible and not visible, documented and entered into their service record book. Any tattoo deemed questionable by the Marine’s commanding officer will be forwarded to manpower and reserve affairs for their review.
Since all Marines’ tattoos are documented before they go on a special assignment, noncommissioned officers are the first line of defense when it comes to a young service member making an irrational decision in ink, according to Gunnery Sgt. Mark O’Hare, company gunnery sergeant, HQSVCBN, MarForPac and former recruiter out of Kansas City.
“As NCO’s, the most important issue is to ensure you’re very familiar with the tattoo policy to include what a quarter, half and full sleeve look like,” he said. “When considering a tattoo, any tattoo as big as your fist and visible in PT gear is most likely not authorized.”