POSTED: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - 10:17pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 5:35pm
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — From sideburns, to make-up, to body art, Uncle Sam is chiming in with new rules for soldiers in uniform, even though it may discourage some young men and women from joining the military.
Army leaders are making changes to grooming regulations for soldiers - that include restrictions on tattoos.
"That's truly the driving impetus behind this is that the Sergeant Major of the Army wants soldiers to look like a professional force," said Major Joe Buccino, spokesperson from Fort Bliss.
Current soldiers will be grandfathered in and allowed to keep existing tattoos - so long as they're not racist, sexist, or extremist.
New recruits will be affected the most because they won't allowed to have tattoos that show below the elbows and knees, or above the neckline.
"The Army faces much bigger problems than tattoos on the forearm," said Specialist Brandon Beaudoin.
Officials say the cost of tattoo removal will come out of the soldiers' own pockets.
"When you join the military, you're expected to act and look a certain way, so once you join the military, you learn to follow that rule," said Staff Sergeant Justin Joyce.
"Some people do want to express themselves in extreme ways which is unprofessional but if a tattoo means a lot to somebody, if it has deep personal meaning, then that expression could certainly be infringed upon," said Beaudoin.
The changes won't just improve the Army's image - officials say it'll help weed out recruits as the Army draws down its force.
The new tattoo policy is expected to take effect within the next 60 days.
Soldiers will then have to self-identify tattoos to their commanders, who will decide whether or not they break the rules.
Soldiers could face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if they do not comply with grooming policies.