One Tattoo convention shows how quickly the Army can change.

Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler considered tattooed soldiers as substandard and unnecessary to a peace time army. His belief led to some of the most restrictive tattoo regulations in the history of the United States Army. Those regulations limited locations on a soldier to not being visible while in a physical training uniform.

Sign at entrance to convention held on Ft. Bliss. (Photo by Doug Schwartz 2017)

The policy published in March of 2014 is part of AR 670-1 (see para. 3–3. Tattoo, Branding, and Body Mutilation Policy). The policy required commanders to examine all of a soldiers existing tattoos and make notes of them. This section also eliminates any enlisted member from being able to seek an officers commission if they have more than four tattoos even if grandfathered.

Artist Jason Tidwell tattooing soldiers at Star City Tattoo Expo on Fort Bliss. (Photo by Doug Schwartz, 2017)

This restriction cost the army good soldiers like Sergeant Brian Xavier whose request for the green to gold program, which would have seen him commissioned in the Army as a Second Lieutenant, was denied due to the tattoo policy under this regulation. Sgt. Xavier said “I decided to get out after my enlistment is up in May. I planned on staying in the army until I retired but now I’m moving on.” This story is not uncommon after Chandler’s personal crusade against tattoos swept into being. “It was like we were good enough to fight but Chandler didn’t want us to be seen. I heard that he questioned our dedication simply because of our tattoos” said Brian.

(photo by Doug Schwartz, 2017)

It didn’t take long after Chandler was replaced by Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Daniel Dailey that things began to change. SMA Dailey learned from troops that one of the major morale issues was the tattoo policy. AR 670-1 was published April of 2015 and repealed the majority of Chandlers points.

Lieutenant B. Wright pointed out “I was denied because of my tattoos at first and after the new 670-1 came out I got a second chance. I’ll admit I thought I was getting out before SMA Dailey corrected what I thought was a pretty big mistake.” Lieutenant Wright was getting a tattoo at this years Star City Tattoo Expo on Ft. Bliss, Texas.

Aspired Visions owner Mike Alqassimi is the promotor for the only tattoo convention in the country to take place on a military reservation. This is a fascinating turn of events when you think that just two years ago much if not all of what goes on at a tattoo convention would be a violation of 670-1 and could cost soldiers major parts of their careers. It will be exciting to see where Mike takes the show from here.