A TATTOO has stopped a potential RAF recruit getting her dream job and spurred her to demand that the air force should fly into the modern era.
Laura Hill was instantly turned down for a role in the services when senior officers saw the star-shaped flowers on her neck.
The 27-year-old, who first applied online two years ago, said that because the tattoo would be seen above the neckline of her parade uniform it prevented her joining up.
But the senior research accounts adviser at the University of Oxford said it had never stopped her progressing in her professional life and that tattoos did not carry the social stigma they once did.
She said: "The Army does not have a problem with tattoos that can be seen above the collar and it has changed its policy. It's about time the RAF and Navy followed suit.
"There is a recruitment problem at the moment and there could be a bigger pond to fish from if they withdrew this regulation.
"The irony is that there are recruits who have big tattoos – some full sleeves – but because they cannot be seen under a uniform then they are okay.
"I have heard that some are having tattoos on parts of their body that can be seen after they are selected, which senior officers are turning blind eye."
Miss Hill, whose partner works at Brize Norton, has now launched a petition to try and get the RAF to relax its rules.
She said: "I went through the whole process and had to fill in the proclaimer about the tattoos I have – about 20.
"When I went into the interview they took one look at my neck and said the process stopped right there for me.
"They are definitely just after an image thing for the parade ground. But you only get to wear parade uniform about once a year.
"It does not affect your ability to serve Queen and country and that is what I want to do."
Miss Hill, who lives in Faringdon with her partner, who asked not to be named, said that her interest in the forces began when she completed work experience at the age of 14 near her home town of Norwich.
However, her plans were derailed when she gained excess weight.
She added: "I decided to do something about my life, lost six stone and trained to get fit ready for an application. I joined the Army reservists and enjoyed it.
"I moved to Oxford from Norwich because my partner is in the RAF and I would also like to join. It is hard to have mixed services relationships so I'd love a career in the RAF.
"I do get a bit envious talking to her about her job."
Miss Hall said she would consider getting the tattoo – a memento of a friendship – removed if that meant it would guarantee a position.
She added: "But are they really that much of an issue any more that you shouldn't have them?
"We have come so far and made lots of progress with gender equality, race, it seems the last barrier."