TODAY   |  September 25, 2013

Army cracking down on obscene, racist tattoos

Tattoos have been a part of Army culture since World War I, but during the last decade, tattoo restrictions were relaxed to help in recruiting. Now, the Army is setting new restrictions against racist and obscene tattoos, which has some up in arms. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>> war with your kids over tattoos but now the army is drawing the line when it comes to body art . jim has the latest on this story. good morning.

>> good morning. since world war i soilders and their tattoos have been skin tight but over the past decade military tattoos exploded and the army said often good body art can mean bad discipline so they're preparing a crack down on over the top tattoos.

>> at the l.a. cats tattoo party outside fort benning , georgia he says the soldiers tattoo is more than a piece of art, it's a personal statement.

>> it's a badge of honor.

>> reporter: for the past 12 years as the u.s. fought two wars the army was so desperate for recruits regulations on tattoos went largely ignored until now. to regain control over the widening world of military body art , the army is preparing to strictly enforce old rules and impose several new ones. in the name of good order and discipline, tattoos that are offensive or obscene will not be permitted that goes for any sexist or racist. soldiers can have no tattoos visible on their face or neck and for the first time none below their elbows or knees. his tattoo commemorates his father and is above the elbow.

>> it really, i don't think has anything to do with where you get it. it's just what the meaning of it is.

>> reporter: fellow soldiers are up in arms, tattoos and all. in a virtual town hall meeting on facebook, soldiers needled the chief of staff. one warned you're going to run a lot of good soldiers out of the army.

>> a tattoo doesn't make or break a soldier. if you're a good soldier, you're a good soldier. doesn't matter the tattoo you have on your body.

>> reporter: he worries it will drag down the soldiers' morale. not to mention his business. the army is also about to crack down on female soldiers and a trend toward fashionable hairstyles, make up, and fingernails which may look stylish on a fashion runway but not a military one. as one official put it, after all, this is the army.

>> jim, thank you very much.