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Navy eases tattoo restrictions to attract millennials

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Navy will be easing its tattoo policy in an effort to recruit and retain more sailors from the younger generation.

The policy was announced at the end of March and goes into effect Saturday. Sailors will be allowed to have neck tattoos, sleeves and even markings behind their ears.

It will be the most lenient policy involving tattoos of any military service.

One in three millennials has body art and Navy personnel told News4Jax that the branch must change with the times.

A spokesperson for the chief of naval personnel in Washington, D.C., explained why the policy is being implemented.

“It was really about being honest with ourselves and putting policies in place that really reflect tattoo realities in the United States,” Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen said.

Back in 2003, Navy policy stated that no tattoos, body art, brands on the head, face, neck or scalp were allowed. And any body art seen as obscene or prejudiced was banned.

In 2009, the Navy released an updated cosmetics policy that allows women to get permanent makeup.

This year, the Navy has lifted its ban even more, allowing tattoos to be seen below the elbow or knee, on the wrists and hands, on the neck, and behind the ears.

“The other real reason, too, is making sure we don’t miss the opportunity to bring talented men and women into the Navy (who) are willing to serve,” Christensen said.

According to Christensen, the Navy has found that about 82 percent of its recruits come from extended military families or bloodlines – a large percentage that the Navy does not want to refuse if the recruit is highly qualified.

“What we’re seeing is routinely the same people (who) join the Navy come from those type of families. So what we don’t want to do is leave people out who didn’t know about the Navy before they get a tattoo and to encourage people who haven’t thought about naval service before to maybe give us a look and think about it,” Christensen said.

The policy still bans tattoos that are obscene, sexually explicit or advocate discrimination based on sex, race, religion, city or national origin. A sailor found with that type of tattoo could face disciplinary action and even involuntary discharge.