This week, the Marine Corps dropped its long-awaited tattoo policy.
The new rules give Marines a bit more leniency when it comes to their body ink and combines three previous policies into a single bulletin that spells out in meticulous detail – 32 pages worth to be exact – where leathernecks can have tattoos.
The Corps' top leaders deserve credit for hearing Marines out during a lengthy review of the policy. But the adoption of the new rules must only be the start. Three steps to ensure the regulations are followed and serve everyone's best interest:
More training. Marines have long complained that the tattoo policy was too complicated and that commanders didn't always know how to enforce it. Commanding officers, noncommissioned officers, staff NCOs and recruiters need to be provided training on enforcing the revised policy, with a focus on location and context rules. Leaders need clear examples of offensive tattoos that are off limits so they can evenly enforce the standards.
A clear appeals process. Getting rid of a tattoo isn't easy — or painless. In cases in which a Marine strenuously objects to his CO's ruling on body ink, he should have the option to appeal to a review. The Army, for example, allows soldiers to appeal their commander's decision to an O-6 in their chain of command. Another option would be an independent review that could handle disputes as needs arise. These would also ensure fairness across commands and could provide guidance on best practices alerts on tattoo trends.
Think about your ink. While areas like the neck and hands are still off limits, the new rules give Marines leeway to get bigger tattoos in some places. Marines need to consider: Any tattoos visible in work clothing — whether that be in the office or the construction site — can affect future employment, promotion opportunities and other aspects of civilian life.
It's the job of everyone, from peers and NCOs to commanders, to make sure their comrades think before they ink.