Story by Cpl. Justin Glandon-Hall
When not in combat, what is the biggest concern for a United States Marine?
To find that answer, you have to look deep into the rank structure. The lance corporals, the biggest population in the Marine Corps, are usually preoccupied with skating out of working parties and calculating how soon they can go to chow without getting yelled at. The corporals are concerned with making sure the lance corporals actually do their jobs – it’s kind of like herding cats. The corporals’ other concerns involve finishing the Corporals Distance Education Course and living up to the expectation of being a noncommissioned officer (NCO). For the sergeants, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They still want to joke around as they did as lance corporals, but are looked at by staff NCOs as the “responsible” ones. The sergeants’ main concern is balancing the inner lance and being responsible. Now for staff NCO’s, who knows? They have their own little world of coffee and clipboards and their biggest concern is how to stay in civilian clothes all day, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because most of these people have something in common.
They all have one main concern to trump the rest. Tattoos.
Walk on any Marine Corps installation and you would be hard pressed to find a Marine without a tattoo or plans to get one. Most Marines, if allowed, would have full sleeve tattoos.
Marines love tattoos. It’s a part of our culture.
Currently, according to Marine Corps Order P1020.34g, Marines are not allowed to have tattoos show outside their physical training uniform (a t-shirt and shorts), because it is deemed unprofessional to have tattoos showing.
First of all, before everything else, Marines are warfighters. This is ingrained in us from the moment we step on the yellow footprints in boot camp. How does having a tattoo affect a Marine’s ability to be a warfighter? Marines had tattoos in World War II, did that stop us from our island hopping campaign? No. In the 80’s, 90’s and even early 2000’s, Marines were allowed to have full sleeve tattoos. We still did our job. We still completed the mission and we looked badass doing it. That right there is what being a Marine is all about. We have the best looking uniforms and we look like bad asses, we have rolled sleeves and we look like bad asses. Part of being a Marine is being a badass. Why can’t we look the part?
Secondly, to those who say tattoos are unprofessional, I point you toward today’s 20 and 30-year-olds.
Tattoos are becoming increasingly accepted by today’s generation and becoming the norm. Just because our generation isn’t the commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps doesn’t mean we have to be stuck in the 1920’s. Look around. Times are changing. We don’t use vinyl records anymore or even DVDs. We also have this new thing called the Internet. With it, we can do things like communicate via e-mail and even … you might want to sit down for this one, video calling. Yes, video calling, crazy I know. I’ll give you a second to take that in.
The Marine Corps has adapted well to things like social media. They have the best social media team out of the entire Department of Defense. Look at Facebook and Twitter. The Marine Corps has more followers or likes than any other DoD entity except the Army, but is only behind by a marginal amount. On Instagram, the Marine Corps has 300,000 more followers than the next closest branch, the Army. The newest social media explosion is Vine, and the Marines and Air Force have roughly the same amount of followers. The other branches don’t even have accounts yet. When you take into account the fact that the Marine Corps currently has less than 200,000 active duty troops and the Army has more than double that amount, shouldn’t they have at least twice as many followers compared to the Marine Corps?
How did the Marines get the best social media team? Simple, the older leadership realized that times were changing and they might not know how to work social media to their advantage. They let the younger generation take control, with some guidance of course, but they let them introduce new concepts, like Vine, and do it their way, and it worked. I know what you’re thinking, “So you’re telling me my staff NCO’s don’t know everything?” They mean well, but sometimes getting with the times is better than locking yourself in the stone age because it’s comfortable.
The Marine Corps is now accepting women into combat roles as well as changing the physical fitness standards for women. Regardless of your opinion on these matters, the fact is the Marine Corps is changing these policies. They are changing the way Marines get promoted, requiring more training and a board of approval in order to pick up the next rank. They are changing uniforms. These are all things the Marine Corps is changing for better or for worse. The one thing on the vast majority of Marine’s minds is tattoos. Doesn’t it seem like the Marine Corps is willing to adapt with the times on almost every other policy except tattoos? Marines want change, and we’re getting it in every way, except the way we want.