Coast Guard allows bigger hand tattoos, ink behind each ear

The Coast Guard has announced an update to its tattoo policy, relaxing the rules to allow for larger hand tattoos and ink behind each ear.

Coast Guard members can now have tattoos up to 2.5 inches long on each hand, which is 1 inch larger than the previously allowed maximum tattoo size, the Coast Guard shared in a news release Tuesday. Body art is approved between the knuckles closest to the wrist and the carpal bones, body art on the palms is not allowed.

Additionally, tattoos that were previously only allowed behind one ear can now be tattooed up to 1 inch behind each ear. The tattoo cannot extend below the hairline or earlobe and may not be visible from the front.

The Coast Guard hopes the latest revisions will reduce barriers to joining and confirm its goal of becoming an employer of choice as it grapples with recruitment challenges.

“These updates to our tattoo policy ensure that uniformed personnel present a sharp and professional military appearance to the public while allowing for personal creativity and expression through authorized body art that is consistent with the Coast Guard’s core values,” the release said. ability.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Russell Dash, commander of the Coast Guard Personnel Services Center, spoke at a conference in April about how the Coast Guard can improve its recruiting process amid competition for talent.

“Like the rest of the armed forces, the crisis we face is real,” he said. “We will continue to innovate.”

In October 2023, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan said at a CSIS event that the Coast Guard was addressing a shortage of approximately 3,500 junior noncommissioned members.

A 2023 government regulatory report recommends the Coast Guard improve its workforce planning processes and data monitoring and collection to address ongoing recruitment and retention challenges.

The statement points out that tattoos still cannot represent racism, discrimination, indecency, extremist or supremacist philosophies, lawlessness, violence or contain sexually explicit content.

Coast Guard standards also do not change tattoos on the neck, chest or around the fingers.

When viewed from the front, the tattoo above the top edge of a standard crew neck T-shirt is invisible. Additionally, the reference point for a back-of-the-neck tattoo is the upper collar edge of a tropical blue shirt, and no tattoos are visible above the upper collar edge of that shirt, except for the permitted tattoos behind the ears.

Coast Guardsmen can get one finger tattoo on each hand between the knuckles closest to the wrist and the fingertips. Ring tattoos are the only authorized body art that wraps around the finger, no finger tattoos are allowed on the palms, fingernails or nail beds.

“We see the importance of evolving our service policies to reflect the times we live in,” Capt. Anthony Williams of the service’s personnel team said previously. “As a service, we support our members’ ability to express themselves while maintaining a sharp and professional military image to the public we serve.”

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor for the Military Times Early Bird Briefing. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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