Although the U.S. Air Force, as the organization that we know today, was formed relatively recently – separated from the Army in 1947 – it has a military history that stretches back to the use of hot air balloons during the Civil War. Fittingly, Air Force tattoo symbolism runs a wide gamut: from the famous red, white, and blue “hat in the ring” of the 94th Fighter Squadron to a simple scripted U. S. A. F. or from a classic World War II P-51 Mustang to a multi-stage ICBM of the Strategic Air Command. Squadrons, flights, groups, and wings might each have their own particular heraldry, so the choice for tattoo symbolism seems almost limitless. But before launching off for your military ink, be aware that all of the U.S. armed forces now have tattoo guidelines.
Absolutely forbidden are any tattoos that advocate any type of discrimination – racial, sexual, religious, or ethnic. Covering the tattoo may not be an option although tattoo removal, at the person’s own expense, might be. According to Air Force policy, tattoos above the collar bone are inappropriate as are those tattoos that might cover one-fourth of an exposed body part. In the end though, a person’s commanding officer is left with the discretionary ability to rule on tattoos on a case-by-case basis. Such policies tacitly acknowledge the fact that tattoos and the military have enjoyed a very long relationship – one that is not likely to end any time soon. In this classic Americana tattoo, it is no coincidence that the bald eagle is part of the symbolism since it is the national bird. It seems especially fitting for the Air Force though, due its dominance as a bird of prey and its role as the ruler of the skies.