March 24, 2007:
The U.S. Marine Corps is cracking
down on tattoos again, refusing to enlist anyone who would have visible tattoos
while in their PT (Physical Training) uniforms (gym shorts and T-shirt).
Tattoos have long been a favorite form of self-expression among military
personnel. But since the United States eliminated conscription three decades
ago, the brass have been less tolerant of recruits with lots of tats,
especially visible ones. The current USMC crackdown has a lot of do with the
marines making their recruiting numbers. They now have to find ways to decide
who to accept, and who to reject. Folks with an abundance of tattoos are not
welcome. The army, however, has loosened
up on tattoos, and will probably get some people the marines turned away just
because of the body art.
The marines are in the midst of an expansion
(adding another 27,000 people in the next five years), and will probably be
forced to loosen up on the tattoo issue eventually, if they want to get all the
people they need. Until last year, the Department of Defense paid for laser
tattoo removal treatments. Now the troops have to pay for it themselves, as do
those potential recruits who have more tats than the recruiting rules allow.
It's unclear why the brass at the Pentagon are so hung up on tattoos. One can
only speculate, which is something we try to avoid.