US Marines looking to re-enlist may want to check the ink on their arms before they can sign up for another stint in the Corps.
Several Marines have found themselves barred from reenlistment due to tattoos, which have long been an American military tradition.
Brian Davenport was banned from reenlisting in 2015 after two of his tattoos -which were close together- were considered one big tattoo, a violation of the USMC policy at the time.
Despite his combat service, his experience took second seat to aesthetics in the eyes of a looming “peacetime” Corps.
“You had leaders saying, ‘We don’t care that you’re a combat veteran,’” he said. “I had a second lieutenant, he was brand new and he’s like: ‘No one cares about Afghanistan. That’s over. We’re moving on. There’s a new Marine Corps.’”
Of course, Davenport’s return from Afghanistan coincided with the Marine Corps’ drawdown from 202,000 to 182,000 active-duty Marines, a cut made due to lack of spending money for the Defense Department.
Undeterred from serving his country, Davenport linked up with an Army recruiter on the same day he found out he was barred from reenlistment. He transferred to the Army two days after leaving the Marines.
Some in the higher echelons of the Corps have their opinions of tattoos and have applied it to policy. According to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, “We are not in a rock and roll band. We are Marines. We have a brand. People expect a certain thing from us,” he told the Marine Corps Times.
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green, however, said that Neller has listened to Marines and allowed tattoos on upper arms and thighs (though still invisible in uniform), not unlike the tattoo policies of many police departments.
“He’s allowed more skin area for tattoos in an effort to balance the Marines’ desires with the grooming standards of the Marine Corps,” Green said. “He wanted the policy to allow Marines freedom and flexibility to express themselves, while also being clearly written and understandable for both Marines and their leadership.”
Neller reportedly has no plans to relax the tattoo policy any further.
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