Navy Spells Out Policy on Tattoos, Body Art, Piercings

Story Number: NNS060421-15Release Date: 4/21/2006 5:28:00 PM
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By Senior Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Bill Houlihan, Navy Personnel Command Communications

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John C. Harvey Jr. released a message April 21 clarifying the Navy's regulations regarding tattoos, body art and/or mutilations and dental ornamentation.

The message underscores Navy policy that already prohibits any body art deemed prejudicial to good order, discipline and morale or of a nature to bring discredit upon the naval service.

"This is directly tied to the public appearance of our personnel," said Rear Adm. Gerry Talbot, director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division, Chief of Naval Personnel. "How we look in uniform, how we represent our Navy and our nation should be something we consider on a daily basis, on duty or off."

Navy policy stipulates that any tattoo/body art/brand that is obscene, sexually explicit or advocates discrimination of any sort is prohibited. Administrative separation could result for personnel disregarding this guidance.

Four criteria have been issued to commanders to assist them in determining whether a tattoo, body art or brand should be permitted: content, location, size and whether the item is required for cosmetic purposes.

"It is important to clarify our policy to ensure everyone understands the criteria," said Talbot.

Location is as important as the content of the tattoo. Tattoos/body art/brands cannot be visible through the white uniform and cannot be on the head, face, neck or scalp regions. Items on the lower arm can be no larger than the wearer's hand, fingers closed.

The message also points out Navy policy restricting intentional mutilation of any sort. This is defined as radical alteration of the body, head, face or skin for the purpose of an abnormal appearance.

Dental ornamentation - the use of gold, platinum or other veneers or caps for decorative purposes is also prohibited.

Waivers for pre-existing conditions will be considered on a case-by-case basis by local commanders. They have discretion to determine whether removal is required, but items may be waived if they are not prejudicial to good order, discipline and morale.

Even if body art/tattoos/branding/mutilation occurred prior to the Navy's original guidance released in January 2003, commanders still have the option to recommend separation if medical authorities determine removal is not feasible.

Amplification on this policy, waiver applications and waiver eligibility can be found in NAVADMIN 110/06.

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