Air Force Policy On Tattoos

So you’re thinking about joining the Air Force but you’re so tatted up that you’re not sure if you will be allowed to join. The Air Force policy on tattoos is pretty simple. One rule is that the tattoo cannot take up any more than 1/4 of any exposed body part.  This can be kind of confusing since you might not have a clear definition of what an exposed body part is. Is my arm a body part, is my finger a body part, I mean how vague can you possibly be. Well let me clear this up of you just a little bit.

Here is a list of what is considered a body part.

  • Upper arm (from shoulder to elbow)
  • Lower arm (elbow to finger tips)
  • front torso
  • back
  • upper leg (knee up to waist
  • lower leg (knee down to toes)
  • neck
  • head

 That pretty much covers the body parts, so if you have tattoos on those body parts and they cover more than one quarter of those body parts than you may not be qualified to join the Air Force.


One important thing to remember

Is that if you have ink on some of these body parts you could be disqualifed regardless of how much it covers. If you have ink from  the bottom of your neck up, you cannot join. A rule of thumb is that if you can see your tattoo over your shirt collar than you need to get it removed or you cannot join. I’ve seen people get laser surgery to get tattoos removed and I’ve also seen people cover them with flesh colored tattoo’s both are acceptable as long as the flesh color tattoo is not noticeable. If you cover you tattoo with a flesh ink and you can tell that your beautiful red rose is now just a flesh colored rose than it is not acceptable.

If you don’t have any tattoos but are thinking about getting one

I would personally recommend waiting until you graduate from Tech School before doing so.  Getting one before hand is only going to cause issues that you don’t really need to deal with.  If you are that hard headed that you can’t wait I strongly urge you to make sure that you keep it above the elbow, above the knee and of course below the neck line.  You want to avoid having tattoos that will be exposed in uniform.

First hand experience though, after you join the Air Force you can pretty much get as many tattoos as you want. I’ve seen people with blatant tattoo violations. You have to understand though that the rules are the rules and if you decide to break them you run the risk of being called out and if pushed far enough you could have to get them removed. One way to avoid this is to ensure that all tattoos are concealed in uniform. That means I would not go out and get a full arm sleeve, you are just asking for trouble.


I personally have several tattoos but they are all above my elbow and my knee. Most people will never know that I have so many tattoos until I take my shirt off.


The last thing to remember regarding tattoos


And this rule is not flexible at all and I have witnessed people being discharged or forced to have their tattoos removed for violating this policy. You cannot have any tattoos that are gang related, offensive, or displays a bad image on the Air Force.  Again this is a bit vague but only to those people who want to try to push the limit.  Basically you can’t have any racial slurs, derogatory comments, gang affiliated signs, etc.

If you try to join the Air Force and you have one of these types of tattoos you will be barred from entry. If you get one while you are in and it is never seen in uniform than you probably will be ok. So if you want to go out and get F$#% the world written on your ass, than be my guest. Whatever floats your boat. But be warned if you go to the Dr for an exam and the doc sees the tattoo and decides to report it. You could be forced to have it removed.

That about sums up the Air Force Tattoo policy.  I love tattoos myself and sometimes wish I could go and get a full sleeve, hmmm maybe when I retire. Oh well. If you would like a general overview of all the Air Force requirements click here.

If you want me to look at a tattoo for you, upload a picture of it on the forum at the following link and I will give you my best guess as to whether it will disqualify you or not.

You can also click that link to download a tattoo calculator that will help you determine if your tattoo is disqualified or not.

Speak Your Mind