Is it Time to Rethink AR670-1?

So it looks like it’s time to have another look at the Army’s new personal appearance regulations, the increasingly controversial AR 670-1. It’s been in the news a couple of times over the past week as troops keep finding issues with the standards they’re expected to comply with.

First, there was a crackdown on unauthorized boots. A PowerPoint presentation has been doing the rounds of garrison-minded senior NCOs, condemning a whole range of popular field boots to the back of the closet because they don’t meet the new appearance standards. Never mind that they’re the boots many soldiers perform best in; they don’t look just right. Many of these boots have been worn for the last 5 to 7 years while 2 wars were going on. But they are no longer “authorized.” Odd that they were good enough for wartime but not good enough for peace…

Next it emerged that a lot of female African-American soldiers are having real trouble with the list of approved hair styles. Many of them can’t find an authorized style that works and are having to use straightening products or extensions to stay on the right side of the line. The problem, they say, is that nobody consulted with them about what natural styles work well with military headgear. Hair rules that don’t work without expensive cosmetic work obviously have problems.

Staff Sgt. Adam C. Thorogood's now-banned tattoos on his left arm. Source
Staff Sgt. Adam C. Thorogood’s now-banned tattoos on his left arm. Source

And now one of the most hotly debated sections of the regulations has reared its head – tattoos. A Kentucky guardsman is suing the Army for an interpretation of the rules that, he says, is preventing him from applying for a Special Forces aviation unit. Staff Sgt. Adam Thorogood has an extensive collection of ink that was legal under the old regulations, but now AR 670-1 says the designs on his arm are excessive.

Regulations change over time; we all expect that. What’s annoyed SSG Thorogood is that he’s now being punished for something that wasn’t against the rules when he had it done and that he couldn’t have predicted. That doesn’t matter to the Army, though. His existing ink is grandfathered in to an extent, but he’s barred from applying for commissioning or a warrant officer’s post.

One of the lawyers representing Thorogood is arguing that AR670-1 violates his client’s right to free speech. That probably isn’t going to wash; everyone in the military understands that they’ve voluntarily accepted restrictions on their right to express themselves. The attorney has another, better point though – it’s unconstitutional to change the legal status of an act committed before the relevant law was enacted, so while Thorogood wouldn’t be allowed to get his visible tattoos now, he shouldn’t face any adverse consequences because he had them already.

Nobody’s denying that the Army needs to set standards to keep its people looking professional. The problem seems to be the way the standards have been set and the rigor they’re being applied with. It’s not right that female soldiers have to spend their money on hair extensions to manage an acceptable style; it’s not right that serviceable boots are banned because the ends of the sole cross an arbitrary line, and it’s not right that people’s careers are being frozen because of tattoos that didn’t break the rules when they were inked.

One or two complaints about the new rules could be overlooked; this is the Army, and some soldiers will complain about anything. There are a lot more than one or two gripes, though, and they’re aimed at multiple sections of AR 670-1. It might be time for the service to have a rethink.

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8 thoughts on “Is it Time to Rethink AR670-1?

  1. In the case of tat’s I can understand having standards preventing tattoos that may have anti-american messages, or are known gang related tattoos. other than that most all should be allowed.( I do think Location of tattoos is a critical issue, as with facial tattoos) I the case of grandfathered tat’s it should be across the board, If it was once permitted for a soldiers it should always be permitted for that soldier.
    changes should take effect only for enlistees after such date of enactment .
    yet how much time do we waste enforcing things that don’t really pertain to winning wars, conflicts, or keeping our troops safe and on top of their game.
    I would rather have a true warrior that may have some tat’s by my side fighting, than one that’s got a bug up their ass because their CO is more worried about appearance.

  2. Tattos have history in the Mlitary Service tattos will not make a better soldier or bad one, I think they may have some restrictions in case gang, racist or offencife arts but remember Sailor Larry and his works of art during 2 World War. My self have Arms full tattos chest full and full back Marine arts and now that I’am DAV I have allaround my head ,neck and hands.I active service should be a little bit more open in something thats folklore in the military. My older son is in the army his got a few tattos he toll me that he was afraid of doing more tattos because that could get him stock of getting promotions in the future …..

  3. I think the tattoo regulations of late are really getting out of control. I believe it pretty much turns out being the personal views of the current Commanding General of each respective branch. Tattoo’s have been a part of the military for generations. I do believe that they should be “monitored” for lack of a better word ensuring that they are not gang tattoos, anti American, racial in nature or just plain vulgar. Several years after I got out of the Marine Corps I got an Eagle Globe and Anchor tattoo on my forearm later I went to check out the reserves and was told that they didn’t think they could get me in with the tattoo on my forearm!?!?! A tattoo doesn’t make you any less of a warrior!

  4. This is a joke! tattoos have been a part of the military since military was established. The only time the military “worries” about them is during down sizing. After Viet Nam the tattoos and “overweight” solders were targeted, The military developed several “fat measurements” all of which were subject to manipulation. The true way of weighing the solder and then repeating the weighing in water was and still is ignored. Forget the fact that a reserve solder is a millwright and has a body like a professional bodybuilder! Forget that the solder survived Viet Nam, now it’s peace time and we need to down size, forget that unit or corps tattoos were a major part of the battle buddy bonding. If the regulation is to change, all grandfathered tattoos should be exempt. Only exception would be erotic, racially derogatory, profane, anti American, gang related,or vulgar tattoos. These should not have been allowed in the first place

  5. Whine whine whine….
    Field gear and garrison gear have always been different. If you cant handle the garrison side of the military… Maybe its time to get out.
    Tattoos have ALWAYS had mixed reviews.. For officers they were a nogo.. In some countries and embassy duty as well. You represent the US as service personel… Its well within the military’s rights.. As well as ANY civilian business to let you go for not complying with the standards they set.
    No one is twisting your arm to stay in…
    There is not a place in this world where you can wear what you want, do what you want, say what you want without anyone ever passing judgement..

  6. Orders are Orders and if thy Armed Forces have aready regulate the tattos so be it, thats what I spoke with my son last night I gave him the best advice you can give play by the rules they don’t want tattos so don’t have tattos the only person whos going to benefit of new regulations are the ones that do what there order rest my case…..

  7. Tattoos are forbidden in Islam. These tattoos eliminate many good recruits and will help fill our military with many more Muslims. This then, according to the agenda, seems like a great guideline.

  8. TATTOO: Look at the old AR 670-1 dated 3 February 2005 page 5 starting at e. If you were enlisted prior to the new regulation, you are grandfathered if you meet the guidlines in the old regulation. If you are not in regulation with the old guidlines, you shouldn’t have gotten the tattoo because that is the was the regulation prior to the new one.

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