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Air Force Policy on Tattoos, Body Art, and Body Piercings

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Question: Is the regulation retroactive, or will there be exemption to exclude those who receive tattoos before the regulation was issued?

Answer: There are no so-called "grandfathering" provisions in the policy. It would not be practical from an enforcement standpoint: i.e., the Air Force could not realistically maintain different appearance standards at the same time. For instance, how could a supervisor with excessive tattoos tell a subordinate they can't engage in such practices? While the formal policy spelling out "unauthorized" tattoos is new, any behavior that tends to bring discredit to the Air Force has never been tolerated. Members who have exercised poor judgment by obtaining inflammatory images on their skin should not be surprised by this non-negotiable clause of the body art policy.

Question: If there are no exemptions, who is responsible for the cost of the removal?

Answer: Again, this depends on the particular circumstances and commander judgment. If the tattoo is unauthorized, based on content, the member will likely face the bill of removal alone. If the tattoo is more an issue of excessive, removal is the last resort and is essentially a voluntary action on the part of the member. In these cases, commanders will work with local military medical officials to determine how to support removals at no cost to the member.

Question: What are the differences in the piercing policy for women and men?

Answer: The only difference is the wear of earrings. Males may not wear earrings on duty whether in or out of uniform, nor can they wear them off duty on base. Females performing official duty in civilian attire are limited to the same wear criteria as when in uniform: i.e., a single small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced or clip earring per earlobe. The earrings must match and should fit tightly without extending below the earlobe.

Question: Are social functions considered official duty concerning the wear of earrings for women?

Answer: Social functions, such as squadron picnics, Christmas parties or mixers, are not considered official duty. Official duty status includes jobs that require the wear of civilian attire, participation in sporting events, traveling in civilian attire on temporary duty orders or when representing the Air Force at civilian functions.

Question: What is considered extreme or excessive earring wear for women in civilian clothes on base during their off-duty time?

Answer: Commanders and first sergeants would make the final determination as to what is extreme or excessive, but considerations would focus on encouraging a positive image among Air Force members at all times.

Above Information Derived from AFI 36-2903 and the Air Force News Service

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