The Corps has revised its checklist for Marines attending resident professional military education courses to include scrutiny of tattoos to make sure they're within the service's regulations.

Among a handful of changes to the checklist for Marines preparing to attend one of the staff noncommissioned officer academies is a new block to ensure that "all tattoos that are visible to the eye when wearing standard physical training gear are documented in the Marine's [official military personnel file]."

While the Corps' tattoo policy has not changed with the new checklist, it places Marines under additional inspection, making it more likely that out-of-regulation tattoos — or those not appropriately documented — are flagged.

"Prior to attendance to a Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy course, Marines shall be screened by their command in order to ensure all prerequisite conditions are met," reads Marine administrative message 575/14, signed Nov. 5.

The first Marines to be impacted by the new policy are those planning to attend a resident course that begins Jan. 5.

The service tightened its tattoo regulations in January 2010. The measure was meant to codify the service's policy to remove uneven enforcement of what was considered appropriate. It also aimed to crack down on tattoos that limited Marines' world-wide assignability, or detracted from a clean military appearance.

Tattoos visible in physical training uniforms have to be documented and meet a series of criteria on size. Visible tattoos must be no larger than the Marine's hand with fingers extended and together and the thumb touching the base of the index finger. Additionally, they must abide by rules on offensive content.

Not meeting the requisite requirements — including tattoo regulations — could prevent enlisted Marines from attending a staff NCO academy, which conducts the resident PME. Depending on the base, staff NCO academies hold courses for corporals or sergeants and above.

With an ever-increasing emphasis on the importance of resident PME and extreme competition to remain in uniform through the manpower drawdown, not clearing a resident PME requirement could become a career stumbling block when going before selection boards for promotion. In October, the Marine Corps announced that corporals through staff sergeants would be required to complete a resident PME course in order to be eligible for promotion to the next rank, starting in October 2015.

Aside from tattoo screenings, other changes to the checklist for resident PME at staff NCO academies include the of Electronic Data Interchange Personal Identifiers instead of social security numbers to track Marines and paper work. To help combat identify theft, the Defense Department launched the Social Security Number Reduction Program in 2010 which prodded the services to identify all areas where they could use alternative identifiers. The Marine Corps subsequently carried out efforts to minimize the use of social security numbers.

Additionally, the new checklist removed the requirement "to certify capability of handling live ammunition and firearms." It was not immediately clear why the change was made.

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