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ARLINGTON, Va. — Marines with tattoos covering most of their arms or legs cannot serve as recruiters or guards at U.S. embassies, a recent Marine Corps message said.

The move codifies and clarifies existing practice, said Kerry Cerny, branch head for military personnel policy at Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

"They are considered excessive tattoos by the Marine Corps, and we have always held recruiters and those on Marine security guard to higher standards than normal Marines," Cerny said Monday.

In March 2007, the Corps tightened its tattoo policy, banning "full-sleeve tattoos," which cover all of a Marine’s arms or legs. The policy also banned half- and quarter-sleeve tattoos visible when a Marine wears his or her PT shirt or shorts. Marines who already had such tattoos were grandfathered under the new policy.

Earlier this month, the Corps announced that Marines with grandfathered sleeve tattoos could not serve as recruiters or Marine security guards. "Recruiters and Marine security guards have a significant impact on public perception, as they routinely interact with civilians, both home and abroad, in the daily performance of their duties," a Corpswide message said.

After considering whether the move might disqualify otherwise qualified Marines from filling these positions, Corps officials decided the policy was "for the greater good of the Marine Corps," Cerny said.

Marines with grandfathered sleeve tattoos who are already serving as recruiters or Marine Security Guards, or who had orders to fill such positions prior to the policy announcement should be allowed to finish their assignments, Cerny said.

However, they are not exempt from any other rules or regulations, he said.

Since becoming Marine Corps commandant in late 2006, Gen. James Conway has signed off on a number of initiatives on Marines’ appearance and grooming.

Now enlisted Marines are required to have dress blue uniforms by fiscal 2012; Marines cannot wear their camouflage uniform off base except in emergencies; and standards prohibit dental ornamentation and spell out how Marines should appear in civilian clothes.

"Revealing clothing (i.e. clothing that exposes midriff, the buttocks, excessive amounts of chest/cleavage) or items designed to be worn as undergarments (and worn exposed) are not authorized for civilian attire while on or off duty," according to a August 2007 presentation.

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