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Marine leaders to review controversial tattoo policy

The hotly debated Marine Corps tattoo policy will get another look this month, the commandant told a Marine audience in Japan on Tuesday.

Gen. Joseph Dunford paid a visit to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on a brief tour of Marine Corps bases in the Asia-Pacific region. During a town hall-style question-and-answer session, he told troops that Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green and other senior enlisted leaders would look at the Corps' current tattoo policy and decide if any changes were needed, according to reports from Marine combat correspondents.

In a following radio interview with AFN Iwakuni that was published online, Green said the review would take place March 31 and April 1 and involve other Marine Corps sergeants major at the force level.

"We absolutely have to do the things that are right to make us combat-effective and combat-ready, whatever that is," Green said. "We're going to make that decision and give that advice to the commandant based on his intent and how he leads the Marine Corps."

In his comments Tuesday, Dunford did not say what elements of the tattoo policy might be reviewed or when a decision might be made regarding an update to the policy.

But Green indicated that the new look at the rules was prompted by the questions leaders had fielded from rank-and-file Marines.

"We heard you," Green said, according to a news release from the town hall event. "We are going to look at what is best for the Marine Corps and what will keep us combat ready and combat effective. We will make that decision and give that advice to the commandant."

A spokesman for the commandant, Lt. Col. Eric Dent, said he had nothing additional to add to the announcement by Dunford and Green. The sergeant major's spokesman referred all questions to the commandant's office.

Dunford told Marine Corps Times in Februarythat he hadn't looked at changing the tattoo policy as of then, but was open to hearing what Marines had to say about it.

"I'll be seeing enough Marines over the coming months — whatever issues are most on their mind, I'm sure I'll be hearing about them," he said. "And whatever they happen to be, I'll listen."

About a month prior, Green told Marine Corps Times that while he doesn't have any body ink, he's a fan of tattoos.

"I absolutely love them," Green said. "Some of them are pretty freaking good."

The tattoo policy has been debate fodder since the tenure of 34th Commandant James Conway, who published aggressive new rules governing tattoo quantity, size and placement in 2007 and again in 2010.

The policies banned sleeve tattoos and prohibited Marines from getting permanent ink on hands, feet, wrists or the inside of their mouths. The policies also limited how many tattoos could be visible while in uniform and established stricter guidelines for screening content of the images.

While "grandfathering" provisions were made for Marines who already had tattoos that didn't meet the new guidelines, these Marines were no longer eligible for certain special duty assignments, such as recruiting posts.

Some Marines who left the Marine Corps and then tried to re-enter also found the new tattoo policies blocking their way. Dunford's announcement that Marine leaders would review current policies may sound a hopeful note for tattoo enthusiasts in uniform. The 35th commandant, Gen. James Amos, repeatedly refused to entertain requests to revisit the rules."The current tattoo policy will remain in place. There are no plans to change anything," Amos told Marines in March 2014 during a Facebook town hall forum.

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