Local News

Tattoos and Piercings? Not in the Air Force

Posted July 5, 1998

— They're just about anywhere these days. Body piercings and tattoos are all the rage in many places, but one employer is cracking down on millions of people. The growing fad is causing major headaches in some military circles.

Airman Amanda Vaughn wears an item called a barbell on her tongue. She also wears four sets of earrings, but from now on she won't wear them at work or in her dorm room at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The air force says that at every base, including base housing, body piercing jewelry is off limits for active duty airmen.

"When I get home, and I get out of uniform I think that I should be able to wear any body piercing I want," says Vaughn.

The new guidelines limit women to one pair of earrings on base, and men can't wear them at all. Certain tattoos are also restricted, such as those that can't be covered or that contain obscene or racist comments are prohibited.

"The air force is about professionalism," says A1C Daphne Leightey "I understand that. Just because I have a tattoo or body piercing does not mean I'm any less smarter than the next guy standing to me that doesn't have body piercing or tattoos."

Some see tattoos as a military tradition. Airman Justin Hendren designed his himself before he joined the air force six months ago. He's proud of his mark, but says some body art goes too far.

"If it's tastefully done, i don't think there should be a problem with it, but if it offends anybody, any ethnic group, race, that's in bad taste," says Hendren.

The rules are effective immediately, forcing some airmen to think twice about their personal, yet permanent devotion.

If a tattoo is considered offensive, the air force says it will require the airman to have it removed. The airman will have to pay the bill himself, even if it costs thousands of dollars.

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