BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Effective Wednesday, airmen like Master Sgt. Joseph Rivera and Tech Sgt. Robert Knipfer can roll up their sleeves and remain in regulation dress.

The Air Force is again changing its policy on tattoos and body modifications. Doing so both opens career opportunities for current tattooed airmen and allows a greater base of potential recruits, said a force support squad commander.

The last major change was in 1998, and this change reflects changing societal norms, said Maj. Jeff Elliott of Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

Body art may now cover more than 25 percent of a body part and does not have to be covered by uniform, a major departure from previous regulations.

The updated policy also allows one tattoo band on one finger of one hand. The head is still an unauthorized area for tattoos. Airmen are barred from tattoos that are related to gangs, extremist and supremacist organizations, or body art that advocates sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination.

Elliott said about half of the contacts and applicants for the Air Force have some kind of tattoo, and one in five had enough ink coverage that the service would have to review before welcoming the airman into service.

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