Whenever you see soldiers from the U.S. Army fully dressed in their military uniforms, your eyes travel towards all of the various ornate details that make up their appearance. You may pay attention to their headwear, then scan down towards their customary footwear and back up to their military coat.
But it is the Army patch that offers a whole lot of curiosity. But what do these Army patches stand for, and why are they placed in these particular locations?
The U.S. Army has a series of patches that it uses to signify which particular command or unit a soldier is serving with. These service units can be both overseas in combat deployments and back in garrison in their permanent duty station.
Shoulder Sleeve Insignias
On the left sleeve of a U.S. Army member’s uniform, these patches indicate currently attached units a soldier serves on. Then over on the right sleeve of the uniform, the patches showcase the prior unit that the soldier is assigned to while serving in a combat zone for a specified period of time.
The shoulder sleeve insignia, abbreviated as SSI, is an embroidered patch that is worn on various uniforms utilized by major formations of the United States Army. Each formation has its own designated formation patch.
The U.S. Army is distinctive among the other U.S. Armed Forces like the Navy Air Force, Marines, and the Coast Guard, in that all soldiers must wear the patch that represents their own headquarters as part of their military uniforms.
How did the shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) get its name? This stemmed from the most common location that it is worn is on the upper left sleeve of the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) as well as the Army Green uniform. But the SSI can also be placed on the side of a soldier’s helmet.
When you see shoulder sleeve insignia worn on the upper right sleeve of Army uniforms, this is an indicator that denotes prior wartime service. These particular combat patches are worn on the Army Combat Uniform and also by the new Army Greensbut.
But these combat patches aren’t worn on the Army Service Uniform. There is instead a 2-inch metal replica placed on the right breast pocket known as the Combat Service Identification Badge (CSIB).
What makes the Army combat patch special is that it recognizes soldiers’ participation in combat operations, and is known as the shoulder sleeve insignia-former wartime service (SSI-FWTS),
After 1945, the only soldiers who were eligible to wear the combat patch were those that were serving with large echelon deployed units, such as brigades, divisions, corps, Army commands, or higher, The smaller support companies and battalions and other lower-ranking units had their own combat patches.
The Army has specific guidelines on when and how to wear the patch, revised to reflect soldiers now are deployed at smaller echelon levels.
Wearing the Army Combat Patch
When soldiers report to their initial units, they need to get in the habit of wearing the combat patch that has been assigned to their command on their left sleeves from that point forward. Once soldiers are deployed to a particular combat zone, they are then allowed to wear the company-level or higher patch on the right sleeves of their Army uniforms to showcase the units in which they give their service to.
The right sleeve is the location on Army uniforms that is purposed with signifying which unit soldiers have been deployed into combat zones with. This is why the patches that are placed there are called Combat Patches. The left sleeve unit patch alerts others to which unit you are currently in service to.
When echelons below company level deploy, soldiers in those particular units may now wear the combat patch that has been assigned to the lowest-echelon command they deploy with. But it must be at company level or higher.
Requirements for the Combat Patch
For soldier’s to be eligible to receive the combat patch, they have to be serving in an area of operation that has been said to be a hostile environment. They also could be serving during a war period.
Who isn’t allowed to wear the combat patches? This would be any Army personnel who served as civilians or as part of another service who were not authorized as members of the Army during one of the specified periods.
Color Patches and Subdued Patches
One of the requirements of the Class A Uniform is that the full-color detail of patches that a soldier has earned is worn on their sleeves. When soldiers are in the field, the same patches must be worn. But they will be subdued colors of green, black, and brown with no bright colors.
Knowing what Army Patches stand for is a great conversation-starter when you are in the presence of decorated war veterans. Arm patch collectors that know the history associated with these embroidered pieces have a better idea of the value that is placed on them when they know what soldiers had to do to earn them.