KNOXVILLE - Men and women with ink could now have a better chance of joining the U.S. Air Force.
This week, the Air Force announced revisions to its tattoo policy. The changes come after a recent review of Air Force field recruiters showed that almost half of the applicants and recruits had tattoos.
Of those, a fifth had tattoos that did not meet the standards.
"I would say daily, there are people who come in with tattoos,” said Master Sgt. Curtis LaRue. "We would just say, 'Sorry, you do not meet the standard.'"
At McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, LaRue says he sees around 10 people a day, at least one with a tattoo.
"It’s sad to see people get turned away because of a tattoo choice, so a lot of people are excited about this opportunity to serve their country even if they have a tattoo,” said LaRue.
Originally, Air Force policy did not allow tattoos to cover more than 25 percent of the body. Removal was an option, but rare.
"It's quite costly, and a lot of our applicants are looking for a job and joining the military for employment, so they normally don't have the money to go out and get it removed,” said LaRue.
Now, the new regulations gets ride of the 25 percent rule.
"You can have up to a full sleeve of the exposed body part up to the hand,” explained LaRue. “You’re allowed to have one tattoo on your hand, the size of a ring.”
Some of the originally guidelines will remain in effect.
"Basically a no-no is anything from the neck up, the collarbone up, so if you have them on your lip or tongue, or anything up is disqualifying,” said LaRue.
He’s hopeful the new regulations will open up the pool of applicants and bring a boost in recruitment numbers.
"In today's culture it’s just become more prevalent to have tattoos and if you want to continue to recruit and deploy individuals to support your missions, you're going to have to be more relaxed on the standards,” said LaRue.
The changes will take effect Feb. 1.
The Air Force also made modifications to its marijuana policy for recruits. Before, you would have been disqualified from service if you admitted to smoking the drug more than 15 times before entering. Now, there is no limit due to many states legalizing marijuana.
You can still not smoke marijuana while you are serving.
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