Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Anthony Petit, homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska, use every ounce of strength in their tug-o-war loss to the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore during the Buoy Tender Roundup Olympics at Coast Guard Station Juneau, Alaska, on Aug. 22, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

Get Inked: Coast Guard Revises Policy to Align with ‘Current Tattoo Trends’

New Coast Guard regulations tell potential recruits that it’s OK to get inked — up to a certain point.

In its announcement of the new policy today, the Coast Guard said it’s “aligning the policy closer to current tattoo trends,” which “allows the Coast Guard to increase the pool of otherwise-qualified potential applicants for service.”

The policy, effectively immediately, applies to both current Coasties and new recruits.

“I am pleased to see the Coast Guard’s new tattoo policy reinforces a professional appearance to the public while adopting some of the very same tattoo standards that are now acceptable among the public,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden said in a statement. “The new tattoo policy will expand our recruiting candidate pool and provide those already serving in the Coast Guard with a few new options.”

Those options include body tattoos as long as they don’t inch above the collar of the Coast Guard’s Operational Dress Uniform’s (ODU) crew neck T-shirt. One finger tattoo per hand — between the base of the finger and the second knuckle — will be allowed, with no thumb art permitted. On the hand itself, one tattoo no larger than an inch wide on the back of each hand is permissible.

The content of the ink matters, as the Coast Guard bans tattoos “that represent racism, discrimination, indecency, extremist/supremacist ideals, lawlessness, violence, or are sexually explicit.”

And while the USCG said this policy update “strikes a balance between personal expression and maintaining our sharp military appearance,” the line is drawn at other types of expression: “The rules governing body piercings and other body modifications have not changed from the previous policy.”

In March, Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said the USCG was examining policies that could be a barrier to retention or recruiting, including tattoo rules and body mass index.

After temporarily put the brakes on discharges based on body fat or weight standards to review the guidelines, the Coast Guard began a one-year pilot program Oct. 1 to “meet the service’s operational needs and challenges while also maintaining healthy weights and body fat percentages.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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