EL PASO, Texas - New Army regulations targeting tattoos are close to being approved by senior military leadership.
Current soldiers who have tattoos, no matter where they are on their body, will be grand fathered in. But no one with a tattoo on their neck or below their elbow or knee will be allowed to join the Army if these new regulations are approved.
"The Sergeant Major of the Army wants our soldiers to stand out because of their valorous actions, because of their selfless service and not because of visible tattoos."
Major Joe Buccino said new Army regulations on tattoos could go into effect in the next couple of months.
"What this new policy gets at is we are a profession of the arms," Buccino said. "The American citizenry, when they see a soldier, they want to see someone that's physically fit, somebody that looks professional, somebody that doesn't have visible tattoos so that's what we're going to."
Tattoo shops like Tom Foolerie's in Northeast El Paso, right across from Fort Bliss, say that 80-percent of their clientele is soldiers.
"I've never seen a decrease in our business," said Richard Rodriguez, a tattoo artist at Tom Foolerie's. "I've been doing this for 24 years. In those 24 years, I think there's been about three or four times they've put regulations on soldiers, but they keep coming. They keep showing up."
Captain Adam Morales has a few tattoos, but none below the elbow or knee.
"Overall, I think it's a good thing," Morales said. "It just looks more professional not to have tattoos showing. We represent our country and we have got to show we're willing not to do certain things that other people can."
A Fort Bliss Army Sergeant from New York, who wanted to remain anonymous, told us he has several tattoos on his hands and arms.
"I don't agree with it," he said. "A lot of my tattoos mean a lot to me. They're family members, ex-friends that passed away. If it's not gang-related or anything like that, I just don't think it should be an issue or a problem like they're making it out to be."
Buccino admitted the Army can afford to be more choosy in the wake of the troop drawdown.
"The bottom line is the soldier, everyone, will follow the regulations or find work somewhere else," Buccino said.
Other new regulations being considered, other than tattoos, include forcing soldiers to be clean shaven both on and off duty and even during leave and not allowing soldiers to eat, drink, smoke or talk on cell phones while walking.