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Mathias Moretti creates a tattoo at the first shop on a U.S. military installation at American Tattoo Society on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in September 2020. Three more AAFES locations on military bases will be getting tattoo shops.
Mathias Moretti creates a tattoo at the first shop on a U.S. military installation at American Tattoo Society on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in September 2020. Three more AAFES locations on military bases will be getting tattoo shops. (American Tattoo Society of Nellis/Facebook)

The Army is expected to get its first on-base tattoo parlor, as the company that opened the first-ever ink studio in a military exchange expands to three more installations.

American Tattoo Society expects to open a new shop at Fort Bliss, Texas, in the coming months, it said Monday. It also announced a March 12 opening date in a former Dunkin’ Donuts at the main exchange on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., home of U.S. Central Command’s headquarters.

The Fort Bliss shop will be located next to the barbershop at the base’s Freedom Crossing shopping center, the company said in a post on its Facebook page. The El Paso base is home to the 1st Armored Division.

“We first visited Ft. Bliss in 2017 to talk about opening a studio on a military base,” the post said. “We are amped to begin construction April 1st.”

AAFES spokesman Chris Ward confirmed those locations via email and revealed a third shop is slated to open at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, “tentatively scheduled for June.”

American Tattoo Society’s husband-and-wife owners opened their first on-base location at the Nellis Air Force Base exchange in September.

The business has long catered to military customers, owner Ryan Harrell told Stars and Stripes. His wife, Nicole, opened their first location over five years ago in Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg.

They’ve run the region’s All American Tattoo Convention for several years and opened their second studio near the Marine base Camp Lejeune in the eastern part of the state.

They announced the MacDill site before Christmas and posted a photo of a “coming soon” sign at the former doughnut shop a few weeks before advertising for jobs in February.

While the Army and Air Force exchanges will be the first with tattoo studios, the commands that operate exchanges on Marine Corps and Navy bases said last fall that they’d also been looking into opening tattoo parlors, but had no firm plans to do so at the time.

Harrell declined to name any additional sites Tuesday or say how many AAFES had committed to in total.

“Man I wish I could answer that!” he wrote via email. “Unfortunately I can’t speak about any new locations without AAFES approval.”

garland.chad@stripes.com Twitter: @chadgarland

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Chad is a Marine Corps veteran who covers the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and sometimes elsewhere for Stars and Stripes. An Illinois native who’s reported for news outlets in Washington, D.C., Arizona, Oregon and California, he’s an alumnus of the Defense Language Institute, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University.
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