Army clarifies hairstyle, tattoo policy

Story by Julia LeDoux

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - The Army has announced revisions to its policy on female hairstyles and tattoo standards for both sexes. The changes to Army Regulation 670-1 were announced Sept. 16. Under the changes, temporary, two-strand hair twists are now permitted for women, but dreadlocks remain unauthorized. Enlisted Soldiers who have grandfathered tattoos will now be considered for Officer Candidate School or warrant officer appointment as long as they have their commander's endorsement. The Army began reviewing its wear and appearance of Army uniforms and insignia policy shortly after the March 28 version of AR 670-1 was released. The review came in response to concerns, primarily from African-American Soldiers, that hairstyle policies were too restrictive. Female hairstyles Under the announced changes, female Soldiers can now have temporary twists or two pieces of hair neatly twisted together. Twists, cornrows and braids can be up to a half-inch in diameter. The requirement that no more than 1/8 an inch of scalp could show between braids was removed. The Army had required that the ends of hair in braids be secured with inconspicuous rubber bands. Now, the ends must be secured inconspicuously. Also, braids and cornrows worn against the scalp can now follow the natural direction of the hair when worn back or in the natural direction using one part in the hair. 'Different ethnicities have different things they do with their hair,' said Sgt. 1st Class Julisha Frias of JBM-HH's Headquarters Command Battalion. The allowable size of a bun has been increased when measured from the scalp out from three inches to three-and-a-half inches. 'I measure my bun,' Staff Sgt. Latonya Russell of Headquarters Command Battalion said with a laugh. Braids, cornrows and twists can be worn in a ponytail during physical training. Wigs, which were previously authorized, cannot be worn to cover an unauthorized hairstyle. Tattoos Under current rules, Soldiers are barred from having more than four visible tattoos, which must be smaller than the individual's hand, below the elbow and knee. Bands must be no more than two inches wide and sleeve tattoos on the legs and arm are prohibited. Frias, Russell and Staff Sgt. Gustavo Rodriquez, an Army medic with Headquarters Command Battalion, each have tattoos that were grandfathered under the older policy. They took strong exception to an earlier version of AR 670-1 that barred Soldiers who had prohibited tattoos, such as sleeve tattoos, from requesting a commission. The older policy also detailed tattoos are unprofessional. 'I was one of the White House medics,' said Rodriguez, who has a sleeve tattoo on one arm, said. 'I used to wear short sleeved shirts. No one said anything to me.' As a personal choice, Rodriguez said he began covering his tattoos while at the White House. 'For two years on the Fourth of July, I was the only person on the South Lawn with long sleeves,' he said. 'It got to the point of, you know, these are part of me.' Tattoos that have always been banned by the Army include those on the face, head, eyelids, mouth and ears. Racist, extremist, indecent and sexist tattoos are also banned and cannot be grandfathered. Frias noted that Army regulations are frequently changed and wondered what changes new senior leadership in the Army would make when they take over. 'There are people with tattoos on their neck that got promoted before I got promoted,' she said. 'Tattoos are not unprofessional. It's your education and leadership that gets you promoted, not something on your neck.' Russell agreed. 'You've got Soldiers changing every day. Leadership changes every shouldn't be 'you look unprofessional because you have tattoos,'' she said. Other changes Under the revision, Soldiers are now permitted to wear one activity tracker, pedometer or heart-rate monitor in addition to one item, such as a watch or identification bracelet previously authorized to be worn on each wrist. Body mutilations, such as shaping one's teeth or tongue bifurcation, are prohibited, but the revision clarifies that Soldiers with approved body mutilations who entered the Army before March 31 can request an exception to policy from the deputy chief of staff for personnel.

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