Trendy tattoos, their place in the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kenny Holsten
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Colorful ink, sharp needles and wild designs are all ingredients Airman seek when preparing to get a tattoo that expresses their personality or tells their story.

In an attempt to give Airmen the freedom to express themselves through tattoos, and continue to keep a clean-cut fleet, Air Force Instruction 36-2903 states the "do's and don'ts" when it comes to body art such as tattoos. This AFI lays out the standards and guidelines as to how far Airmen are able to go with the creative skin ink.

As the trend of tattoos has evolved over the years, so have the unique ways of personal expression through tattoos for Air Force members.

For military members it may be hard to get certain types of tattoos while in the military, but the creative skin art isn't a negative thing and is acceptable within guidelines.

According to regulation, tattoos anywhere on the body that are obscene, advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination are prohibited in and out of uniform, and tattoos should not cover more than one-fourth of the exposed body part.

"For many of us, our tattoos hold a tremendous amount of personal value and meaning," said Senior Airman Joseph Richard, 509th Communications Squadron visual imagery and intrusion detection systems technician. "And, as long as we are safe when getting them and stay within regulations in and out of uniform we can continue to serve wearing our tattoos with honor."

During a recent tattoo convention, several tattoo artists mentioned how often they have done work for military members.

Among those artists were Jen Beirola, who was enlisted in the Air Force for seven years.

"I discovered my tattooing talent during the seven years I served in the Air Force," said Jen Beirola, owner of the tattoo shop 'Grinn and Barret' in Omaha, Neb. "I was inspired by the late graphics career field to push forward with my talent. I noticed several of my friends wanted tattoos that represented what they were proud of, such as their service to our country and some of the things they had gone through while serving."

The convention, held in Kansas City, Mo., not only gave military members stationed at Whiteman Air the chance to observe some of the nation's top tattoo artists, but also the opportunity to invest in a new tattoo of their own.

While some men and women cringed in pain as needles permanently embedded ink into their skin others sat back with a smile.

As the convention continued throughout the weekend, a number of service members could be found seeking out an artist to sketch out their body art.

"Being at this convention in search of just the right artist to do my next tattoo has been a blast," said Erin Robinson, prior Army Special Forces. "Each of my tattoos communicates a story that's had substantial meaning in my life."

While the Air Force policies on tattoos is hard and fast, there is still a window for Airmen to express themselves through tattoos as long as they are healthy, safe and within the regulations.