Tattoos to be documented by Corps soon

22 Mar 2007 | Lance Cpl. Geoffrey P. Ingersoll

Attention on deck! All Marines who have tattoos or who plan on using their next paycheck for some new ink need to reference MARADMIN 198/07. Points of interest in the regulation state that Marines may not receive tattoos or brands on the head or neck. The regulation also prohibits “sleeving,” defined as “a very large tattoo or a collection of smaller tattoos that covers or almost covers a person’s arm or leg.”

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, issued a message on tattoos stating that he understands many tattoos are in good taste and represent esprit de corps or remembrance of fallen comrades, but that he has noticed some Marines have taken body art to excess.

“Recently, I have become concerned over the growing trend of tattooing in our Corps,” Conway said. “Marines must understand that acquiring excessive tattoos may adversely affect both their retention and assignment to special duty.” 

“To that end, I directed a thorough revision of our tattoo policy,” the message continued. 

Per the new order, Marines who already have body art that fits this definition will be “grandfathered,” but must have a Page 11 entry into their Service Record Books containing a photograph of the tattoo’s location, including measurement. Marines have until April 1, 2007.

“The reason why they’re putting it in the Page 11 is to document that the Marine has one currently so that when he reports to his next chain of command, the Marine will not get punished,” said Sgt. Maj. Steven J. Lara, Sergeant Major of the 1st Marine Logistics Group.

He said Marines who don’t complete the Page 11 or receive body art in violation of the order could face sanctions from their chain of command ranging from a negative Page 11 to non-judicial punishment.

Still, not all Marines agree there is a need for a change.

“I read the whole original order and the whole new order, and I think they should leave it the way it was,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew M. Pateraz, a supply Marine stationed with 7th Engineer Support Battalion.

“I understand the neck and the face, but as long as the tattoo is not gang related or prejudicial, I don’t see anything wrong with the shoulders and below,” Pateraz said.

He added that he had the Tazmanian devil tattoo on his left forearm done prior to enlistment and the new order. 

He said that it would be wrong to base judgment of his or any Marine’s ability to perform certain duties based on a tattoo, adding, “especially if it’s of sentimental value.”

Enlisted leaders are pushing to educate Marines of the revised order, starting with the newest Marines.

“We’ve got to get to the new (School of Infantry) Marines and make sure they know the regulation exists,” Lara said.
Headquarters Marine Corps