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Thread: Tattooing in the Military

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    Junior Member zona42hooah's Avatar
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    Default Tattooing in the Military

    Is it illegal to do tattoos in the military? Is there some sort of policy or regulation that says that it is illegal to be a tattoo artist in the military? From what I have heard it isn't illegal as long as you don't charge people/soldiers for the tattoos, but donations are ok... is any of this true?

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    Short Timer CWO Sharkey's Avatar
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    Talk to your CoC. Soldiers charge for haircuts, fix cars, babysitting, etc to other soldiers but I think this is something totally different. But in your case; there are legal issues because you have to have clean needles and perhaps other credentials to operate.
    Iraq/Afghanistan Veteran (OIF V & OEF X & XIII)
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    Junior Member zona42hooah's Avatar
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    I don't really want to draw any attention to myself and possibly get myself in trouble. I use all sterile equipment, and I show everyone I tattoo that all my needles and tubes are sterilized and have never been opened. I have a sharps container so that I'm not throwing dirty needles in the trash. I am responsible about it and have done a lot of research as far as running a clean operation, and know what I'm doing before I just go marking people/myself up. I've been looking around trying to find out if I could get in trouble for it. I'm not in trouble now, but business is starting to boom because tattoos cost so much here in Germany, so soldiers are talking and I'm afraid of the wrong people finding out and making a big deal about it. I know the easy solution would be to just stop doing it, but I have invested a lot of $$$ in it and only have so much of my own skin to tattoo on...
    DON'T MESS WITH MY HARDCORE!!!

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    Short Timer CWO Sharkey's Avatar
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    Well I am in your AO as well. I know its expensive here to get tattoos. Put with anything you want to do on the side, you need your COC permission. Like I wanted to have a second job when I was an E-3. I had to get the OK from my unit. The worst they can say is no.
    Iraq/Afghanistan Veteran (OIF V & OEF X & XIII)
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    Senior Member Grunt Medic TXARNG's Avatar
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    Since you're overseas, US laws about business licenses and such do not apply. I've known Soldiers who did ink work overseas and made quite a bit of money doing it. As long as you adhere to the Army tattoo policy for Soldiers and do not tattoo dependents you should have no problem - but Chief gives excellent advice when he says you should let your chain of command know what you're doing, emphasizing that you follow standards of practice for sterility and only work on Soldiers and within the regs.

    Good luck!
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    Junior Member zona42hooah's Avatar
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    My chain of command is really quick to hem people up. I'm trying to make my E-5 and I have a feeling it would be frowned upon. I haven't charged anyone yet. I do have a couple soldiers that told me that their wives want some ink also. Why couldn't I tattoo dependents? I would think that they would have more of a problem with me tattooing soldiers more than anything being that we are government property. I'm still trying to find a reg or policy letter that they could catch me in violation of. If anyone finds one, please let me know.
    DON'T MESS WITH MY HARDCORE!!!

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    Senior Member Grunt Medic TXARNG's Avatar
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    The issue with dependents primarily applies if they are minors, or if a wife has you tattoo her body without her husband's knowledge. You would most definitely need to have any customers sign a release just as regular shops do, agreeing not to hold you liable for possible complications like infections and such. The regulation you could most likely run afoul of is AR 600-20, Army Command Policy and Procedures, which gives each Commander broad power and discretion to enforce whatever policies he deems necessary to 'preserve good order and discipline'. If you have a very formal Chain of Command, one approach is to write a Memorandum to your Commander, through your chain of command, requesting permission to engage in this activity while off duty. I've used this approach for activities that could be frowned upon (in my case, off-duty marksmanship competition) with good results.

    I made and sold leather goods - knife sheaths, cigarette and snuff cases and such - as a sideline when I was in, and had no problems.
    68W4P, 31B4P, 0341, 0844
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    "Even if you know that a certain illustration in an art book is from the Kama Sutra, don't point that out to your art history class. They will think you're a pervert." - seen at learnfrommyfail.com

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    Senior Member Nightflyer's Avatar
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    Like the men have said, talk to you're COC, I had some really good ink work done and I want more. It's hard to find a good artist that's for sure let alone knowing a fellow Soldier and a friend that could do it for you. I would say something, like Chief and Doc have said, the worst that could happen is you're COC says no. I personally think it would be cool to know a fellow Soldier who could do some real good ink work that's safe and at a decent cost.
    Congratulations Night, Welcome to the team and back into the game, different department, agency, the same game. You'll roll over your days and be golden. Welcome back to the continental breakfast highway, lol. - Del The S**t.

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    idk about overseas but my station commander said that they do it all the time on base and stuff. but i dont know for sure

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    Junior Member SSG_TalOnyx's Avatar
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    I myself am a tattoo artist, I have been doing tattoos in the Army for several years now. There aren't any regulations that directly state you can't, however you have to be smart. If you give another Soldier a tattoo and he completely disregards caring for it and ends up with a serious infection in the hospital. It will come back to you and you will regret having tattooed that person. I have a very legitimate setup; very clean, very professional, and above all else very sterile. If you ever have to defend yourself make sure you are inspection ready at all times. I have given several Soldiers in my unit (and their spouses) tattoos, i don't do it for profit and most times barely make enough to replenish my supplies. There's really no difference (regulations wise) between you giving tattoos and the Lieutenant selling pampered chef (I used this argument once when my lieutenant was in-fact selling pampered chef, lol). Truth be told I was doing the Soldiers a favor, they were going to get the tattoo either way, but I give my tattoo's at a small fraction of what professional tattoos charge. A bit of advise...
    1. Make sure you have a waiver for the person to sign and include a copy of the design. (I can e-mail you the one I created).
    2. Stick to designs well inside your ability. The first time you mess up a tattoo, that Soldier will tell everyone and you'll not only loose your clientele, you'll have unwanted eyes on. If you can't do it, just say you can't... No shame.
    3. Undercharge (by at least 60%). You're not a professional. When you have completed an apprenticeship and work out of a shop, then charge normal rates.
    4. If you're not sure what the design is, do some research. If you're still not sure, and the client can't tell you, or it doesn't sound right... DON'T DO IT!
    5. Be Professional, goofing around might be ok with 9 out of 10 guys, but the 10th one will run to the CoC.
    6. LEARN, educate yourself on everything tattoo. People will ask you questions and they'll expect you to know the answers.
    7. Adhere to all tattoo polices and regs (a bit of a no brainer, but I had to put it in.)
    8. Make sure to follow up with your clients to ensure they are still happy. Fix every tattoo you've ever done for free. They are your advertising, think of it as an investment.
    Hope that helps! Good luck!
    Last edited by SSG_TalOnyx; 07-30-2011 at 12:58 PM. Reason: MORE RULES!
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