Marine officials said Tuesday that there have been no changes to the Corps’ official tattoo policy despite an announcement from a prior service recruiting station Saturday claiming a new lenient policy.

“There is no change to the tattoo policy, and no leniency for IRR Marines [Individual Ready Reserves],” Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman with Manpower Reserve Affairs, told Marine Corps Times.

The initial announcement of a substantial change making the tattoo policy more lenient appears to have stemmed from a misreading of an internal message distributed by the Corps’ Total Force Retention System.

“The message outlines a procedural change intended to streamline the handling/staffing of re-enlistment packages for drilling and IRR Marines with undocumented and out of regulation tattoos,” Carlock said.

The confusion began on Saturday when the Londonberry, New Hampshire, prior service recruiting station made a posting on its social media account claiming that Marine Forces Reserve would allow prior service Marines with out of regulation tattoos to join the reserves with various caveats.

As long as the tattoos are “not egregious (face, hands, racist, etc.), we can get Marines back in who otherwise might not have the chance,” Londonderry, New Hampshire, Prior Service Recruiter Staff Sgt. Justin Eckersley told Marine Corps Times Saturday in an email.

According to the Londonderry prior service recruiting station, former Marines could get approval for out of regulation tattoos at a lower level of approval, bypassing an extensive review process.

That streamlining removed the need for a commanding general endorsement, but didn’t necessarily put the power of approving out of regulation tattoos in the hands of prior service recruiting commanders, as the Londonderry station initially believed.

The social media post outlining the new lenient tattoo policy from the Londonderry recruiting station has since been removed.

“Bottom line is retention officials removed the requirement for CG [commanding general] endorsement because MCBUL 1020 [Marine Corps Bulletin] requires that all out of regs tattoos be documented with a post-120 Page 11 entry,” Carlock explained to Marine Corps Times.

Marines are required to document any out of regulation tattoos with an administrative “Page 11” entry in their service record books 120 days after the Marine bulletin was signed.

Marines have long complained of strict tattoo policies that have at times prohibited Marines re-enlisting in the Corps.

Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller updated the tattoo policy in 2016 to allow tattoos to extend further on the upper arms and thighs.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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