Barracks tattoo: a life-altering decision
Homemade equipment is virtually impossible to sterilize. Novice tattoo artists have frequently used the same equipment on several different people.

Tattoos are markings made by inserting indelible ink into the skin for artistic preferences as well as many other reasons. They are common among service members.

However, the hazards and effects of getting a barracks tattoo, tattoos that are created using homemade equipment instead of professional equipment, can not only affect a military career, it can also affect the rest of someone's life.

"You have service members who make their own tattoo machines or purchase professional-grade equipment," said Sgt. Maj. Vincent Bond, the chief medical noncommissioned officer for United States Forces - Iraq. "Needles are the main problem. When you're here in [Iraq] you don't have the proper supplies to clean your equipment."

Those who fail to fully clean their equipment because of the lack of cleaning supplies could spread serious infections as a result of the type of environment servicemembers are living in, Bond said.

Bond said diseases such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, herpes, chlamydia, fungal infections, chronic liver disease and liver cancer are some of the many that servicemembers can contract as a result of the unsanitary barracks tattoos.

"You put yourself at risk," said Bond. "We've had several infections here throughout Iraq. We understand people want to put ink on their body, however, this is not a controlled environment."

"You have a higher risk here in theater than back home in the states," said Maj. Stanford Lindquist, the chief of Force Health Protection. "Back in the states, tattoo parlors are licensed and inspected daily to ensure everything is safe and sanitized. Here however, there is no such thing because of the type of environment we live in."

Not only can barracks tattoos affect you, it could also impact those around you, as well as friends and family back home.

"It affects the overall readiness of the military," said Bond.

Bond said the consequences can take the service member out of the fight.

"When it's something that can become life-altering, it's not worth it," said Bond. "We never think about the after effects when we think about wanting something now, and because of that, we put ourselves at risk when it can be easily prevented."

Lindquist said that when the effects come to light, it is most likely something you can't get rid of, and he encourages everyone, service members and civilians, to look out for each other.

"Save up your money and get a professional tattoo when you get home," said Bond. "It's as simple as that."
For more information on "barracks" tattoos, visit the USF-I Surgeon page:

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16