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The Air Force rolls up its sleeves to make big changes to its tattoo policy by Julia Boccagno
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The youngest military branch, the Air Force, announced on Tuesday that it's making a big change to its tattoo policy to recruit more talent into the service. 

Set to go into effect by Feb. 1, the revised policy no longer restricts tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs to the "25 percent" rule, a standard that prevented airmen from covering 25 percent of an exposed body part (like a forearm) when in uniform. Those who had "excessive" tattoos would have to get the tattoo waived by a commander.

Some of the older Air Force tattoo restrictions are expected to remain in effect. Brand markings on the head, neck, face, tongue lips and/or scalp, are expected to stay in effect. But hand tattoos will be permitted to one single-band ring tattoo on one finger on one hand.

"As a next step in this evolution, we are opening the aperture on certain medical accession criteria and tattoos while taking into account our needs for worldwide deployability and our commitment to the profession of arms."

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James

The Air Force Secretary reviewed the tattoo policy in 2016.

A recent field test conducted by Air Force recruiters found that almost half of applicants had tattoos. Of these, one in five were found to have tattoos requiring additional review, or that may be deemed disqualifying. 

The study further found that the "25 percent" rule on "excessive" tattoos, such as sleeves, were the top disqualifier. 

Permanent body markings that can be considered obscene, commonly associated with gangs, extremist and/or supremacist organizations, or advocate any form of discrimination, will remain prohibited in and out of uniform.

 Six months ago, the Marines instituted changes to its tattoo policy as well, hoping to balance "the personal desires of Marines with high standards of professional military appearance and heritage."

The news was met with great enthusiasm by potential recruits.

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