Army cracks down on grooming standards
April 4, 2014
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - In 1963, folk-rock singer Bob Dylan wrote and recorded "The Times They Are a-Changin'," expressing upheaval and social change through song.
More than 50 years after Dylan penned the ballad, the Army is also changing.
The latest change affects current service members' abilities to advance through the ranks or earn a commission, as well as those who wish to enlist in the Army. The service has rolled out new, strict uniform regulations and grooming standards, redefining what the Army deems as "acceptable."
Army Regulation 670-1 and the new accompanying Department of the Army Pamphlet 670-1, which went into effect March 31, detail significant changes for Soldiers.
Arguably the most significant change regulating uniform and appearance are new tattoo standards, including new limits on the size and number of the body art. Off-limits tattoos include ink on the eyelids and inside the mouth. In the new policy, new recruits cannot have tattoos showing above the neckline (including the face), or below the elbows and knees. Wrist and hand tattoos also are now against regulation.
Soldiers currently serving might be able to grandfather the ink they currently have; however, all Soldiers will be banned from any extremist, sexist and racist tattoos. Existing Army personnel with tattoos in off-limit areas of the body will be allowed to remain in service but those with existing off-limits tattoos must have them removed at their own expense.
"Every Soldier has the responsibility to understand and follow these standards. Leaders at all levels also have a responsibility to interpret and enforce these standards, which begins by setting the example," Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III wrote on his Facebook page March 31.
Soldiers must not get new tattoos that do not meet the criteria outlined in paragraph 3-3 of AR 670-1. This two-page paragraph specifies the Army's tattoo, branding and body mutilation policy.
This paragraph outlines prohibited extremist, indecent, sexist and racist tattoos as well as prohibited tattoos on the head, face, neck, wrists, hands or fingers. The number and size of tattoos on visible, allowable parts of the body is also specified, including band tattoos.
Paragraph 3-3 of AR 670-1 specifies what is considered compliant and not compliant in the grandfathered policy on tattoos. To protect Soldiers with previously authorized (now grandfathered) tattoos, Soldiers must report current tattoos or brands - including locations and descriptions - to their commanders. Additional information is detailed in AR 670-1, Para 3-3, sub-para 3(e).
Soldiers cannot cover tattoos or brands with bandages or make up in order to comply with the Army's tattoo policy, either.
Commanders are now required to document and photograph all Soldiers' tattoos above the neckline and below the elbows and knees, keeping that information in the service member's official records. Commanders must also perform annual checks for new tattoos, according to the regulation. Additional guidance on this is available in PAM 670-1.
The regulation states that the tattoo restrictions "apply equally to officers and warrant officers" and that enlisted Soldiers exceeding the limit of four tattoos cannot "request commissioning or appointment," even if they are grandfathered in accordance with the regulation.
Soldiers are prohibited from willfully mutilating the body or any body parts in any manner, including tongue bifurcation (splitting of the tongue), or ear gauging (enlarging holes in the ear lobes greater than 1.6 mm).
Also, stricter guidelines regulate hair cuts for both male and female Soldiers. For men, grooming standards remain mostly unchanged. The exception is three off-limit hairstyles: the tear drop; horseshoe and landing strip (or Mohawk). Women's hairstyles greatly reduce style options - four full pages in the training document list the regulations.
However, pony tails are now allowed for female Soldiers during physical fitness training.
Colored nail polish is also banned now for female Soldiers. Females may only wear clear nail polish while in uniform or on duty in civilian attire.
The service has also banned dental ornamentation and imposed stricter jewelry standards Paragraphs 3-4A-3-4E outline wearing watches, rings and earrings (women only), or "attaching, affixing or that displaying objects, articles, jewelry, or ornamentation to, through, or under the skin, tongue or any other body part is prohibited, including earrings for male Soldiers and applies to all Soldiers on or off-duty."
Local Soldiers have mixed feelings about the changes.
"All of the changes in the new AR 670-1 are geared towards keeping everyone on the same level, and recognizing that as a Soldier you are part of something bigger than yourself," said Sgt. James E. Windsor, a squad leader with Honor Guard Company, 4th Battalion, 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
Windsor said that while none of the regulation changes surprised him, he is concerned that the Army could miss out on potentially otherwise good Soldiers merely because of "a tattoo we got before the change," he said.
"Although it is not considered the best looking in the eyes of the public at points, things such as sleeve tattoos that go beyond the elbow and/or knee don't define what the individual Soldier does on a professional level," said Cpl. Scott R. Krienke, a team leader with 4th Battalion, 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
Like Windsor, Krienke is concerned that the new tattoo restrictions could adversely impact the Army, forcing otherwise good Soldiers out of the service.
"Those who are currently in and have no prior negative actions against them, I believe should be grandfathered in for things such as tattoos in places that are specified as a 'no go' area," said Krienke.
Still, all Soldiers are required to adhere to the new standards, regardless of individual opinions about the various grooming, uniform wear, jewelry and other changes detailed in AR 607-1.
"The Army is a profession, and one of the ways our leaders and the American people measure our professionalism is by our appearance," Chandler said on his Facebook page. "Wearing of the uniform, as well as our overall military appearance, should be a matter of personal pride for all Soldiers."
The new uniform and grooming policy is exclusive to the U.S. Army. The revisions apply to all enlisted personnel and officers, including warrant officers, cadets, the National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. The other services have their own grooming and uniform regulations.
Links to both documents are located on the Army Publishing Directorate's web page: http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/uniform/.
Training documents and videos are also linked to the website to guide and assist Army leadership with the new standards, specifically http://cape.army.mil/ar-670-1-leader-training/.