So, you’re thinking of joining the air force but you’re not sure of all the rules and regulations surrounding tattoos. The thing you’ll want to find out is where do you go to find all the rules & regulations?
The answer? AFI 36-2903. Googling this document will give you the official document – Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel.
This contains all the instructions for dress and appearance in the air force, which is exactly where tattoos fall into. It contains the rules and regulations of uniforms, body piercings & tattoos. It provides the exact guidelines of what you’re supposed to follow.
However, your commander can make these more strict depending on their attitude – so while it’s not a complete guarantee, it’s the best target to aim for.
The most simple tattoos that are banned are anything involving gangs, extremist or supremacist. You need to think the question “will this tattoo offend someone?” – if the answer is “yes”, then it will not be allowed. The tattoos also cannot advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination – they also can not disrespect the air force in any way.
If you are already tattooed, you will need to get a pre-screening done which requires sending in a waiver and picture to make sure they are allowed – even if they are not visible.
Once you’re in the air force, it’s much easier to get tattoos then to be tattooed and get accepted – it saves a lot of hassle, so if you’re thinking of joining in the near future it can be a good idea to wait and think over your tattoo until you’ve been accepted and are at your first tech school or deployment.
The next part of acceptance with tattoos is How much can be visible while in uniform? The answer is 25% of the visible limb/body part. These rules do not apply to the PT uniform. Any neck/lips/tongue/skull (anything above your neck) are not allowed in the air force. Hands are okay but be careful with the 25% rule.
You’re supposed to measure yourself in every single uniform – it might be easier to use your most revealing uniform to measure once if you aren’t that heavily tattooed, and if you’re fine with that then you should be fine with the rest.
How to measure your exposed skin for the 25% rule:
Step 1. Measure the length of the exposed limb (to the tip of your middle finger) – all measurements are rounded up.
Step 2. Measure the width at the largest point of exposed limb – at the position of attention.
Step 3. Multiply length * width, then divide it by 4. This gives you the maximum amount of skin that can be tattooed.
Step 4. Repeat this process to measure the exposed tattoo. If they are separate tattoos, measure them individually and join the results.
And that’s it! If you need any further clarification on the rules be sure to check out the official document which will have the exact wording and regulations that you need to follow.