Tattoos & Marijuana: Citizen Airmen should be aware of new Air Force policies

  • Published
  • By Tyler Grimes
  • Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
With the recent implementation of the Air Force’s new tattoo and pre-accession marijuana policies, Citizen Airmen and those interested in becoming Reservists should be aware of the new rules and how to stay in compliance with the regulations.

According to the Air Force Policy Memorandum for Appearances and Accession Standards Review, there are now no limits on size or location of tattoos on the back, chest, legs and arms. However, tattoos, brandings and body markings are not authorized on the head, scalp, neck, face, tongue or lips. Tattoos on the hand are restricted to one single band on one finger on one hand.

The Air Force’s previous tattoo policy did not allow tattoos that covered more than 25 percent of an Airman’s exposed body. Tattoos that promote any type of discrimination, as well as those that are considered obscene, are still not allowed.

The purpose of the revised policy is to ensure the Air Force continues to be able to recruit and retain talented men and women across the total force.

The new policy also outlines guidance for cosmetic tattoos. Cosmetic tattoos that are performed by licensed and qualified medical professionals to correct a medical condition, illness or injury are allowed for male and female Airmen. Female Airmen are also authorized permanent facial makeup such as eyebrows and eyeliners. However, the makeup must be moderate, have a natural appearance and be in good taste.

Potential Reserve recruits must disclose any tattoos, markings or brands that do not meet these standards during their initial accession into the Air Force for review by Air Force Reserve Recruiting. Tattoo alteration and complete removal may be necessary prior to acceptance into the Air Force.

“The new Air Force policy on tattoos will have a positive effect for all those applicants who have the aptitude, skills and knowledge the Air Force Reserve has been looking for,” said Senior Master Sgt. Clark Gilleo Jr., superintendent of accessions, waivers and policy for the Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service. “The past instructions rendered those individuals ineligible to join and serve, but now, with this new policy, they have that opportunity to be a part of the world’s greatest air force.”

The revised policy about pre-accession marijuana usage removes limits to the number of times a recruit can use marijuana prior to entering military service. However, any pre-service marijuana usage resulting in legal proceedings can be a disqualifying factor.

“The new Air Force policy on pre-accession marijuana usage does not have any direct effect on Air Force Reserve Recruiting Service procedures,” Gilleo said.

While the policy does not change how Citizen Airmen are recruited, it is still important to understand the new regulations and the impact they may have. For example, a medical diagnosis of a substance-related disorder or addiction is still medically disqualifying.

Local commanders have the authority to enforce these policies and place further restrictions for legal, moral, safety, sanitary and foreign country cultural purposes. Failure to adhere to the new regulations is a violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.