Before Alberto Esparza leaves San Antonio for Alaska and a post in the U.S. Army, he's getting a Texas star inked on his arm.
Esparza is able to add to the ink already on his body after the Army relaxed tattoo restrictions about a year ago, allowing tattoos below the elbow to the wrist.
“I was pretty excited, myself, because now I could finish both my [tattoo] sleeves, and I could get my legs done now,” Esparza said.
Now, the Air Force is following suit, citing low recruitment. Recruiters with the Air Force say that about half of the people who walk into recruiting offices have tattoos. One of five are automatically disqualified because of the tattoos they have.
The new rules allow tattoos on the chest, back, arms, and legs. While tattoos below the wrist are still not allowed, there is an exception for one single-band ring tattoo on one hand. Tattoos on the head, neck, face, tongue, lip, or scalp are still not allowed.
The Air Force's new standards go into effect on Feb. 1.
In the 11 years that James Delgado has owned Twisted Tattoo, he says he's seen the military relax rules before.
“Pretty much any time they need more recruits, they seem to relax the polices a little more,” Delgado noted. “We get a huge influx of people that are getting tattoos while those policies are that way. It's good for business and it's good for [the military]. They're fighting for our country. They should be able to express themselves however they'd like.”
Delgado says that he believes it does help with recruitment, but Esparza doesn't think so.
“A lot of people do want to get tattoos in the military, but that comes second to serving your country.”