The Importance of Patches in the United States Army

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 at 8:49 PM
The Importance of Patches in the United States Army by George Schmidt

Patches and insignias are not only an Army tradition, but they help identify the soldier. The patches tell people what unit the soldier is with, and if he has a patch on his right arm, which unit the soldier has been to combat with.

There have been reports coming out that some unit commanders are requiring their units to “strip off” these patches during training. That would leave the soldier like every other soldier. I know you are about to ask:

“Isn’t that the point of a uniform, so everyone looks the same?”

You would be right in most cases. Imagine you are new to a unit and you are going on your first field exercise. You assuredly will have many questions. It is far easier to ask a fellow soldier who has “been there” or seen combat because that soldier has experience. But if you hadn’t really known that soldier before this exercise and they are not wearing a combat patch, there is no way to know if that soldier speaks from experience or not.

On the other hand, if you are new to the unit and that unit has already seen combat, you might be intimidated by all the combat patches and awards that unit has earned together.

There is a famous scene in “Band of Brothers” that describes this well. The unit is on break and in a bar drinking. The unit had just received several replacements or new guys. As part of their dress uniform they’re authorized to wear the “Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.” One of the senior members of the unit asks them where they got that shiny ribbon. The new guys explained it was given to them for what the unit had done. The senior member explained exactly what the unit had done, saying, “you guys weren’t in the unit.” The scene ends with the new guys placing their ribbons on the table and leaving.

When I deployed in 2005, it was not with my home unit. I was deployed with a unit that simply needed someone with my skills. Since no one had ever been deployed before, we were all new to this. When I returned home, however, my home unit disbanded and I was placed into a new unit. Upon reporting in I knew only one other person. But after our first formation I recognized several other people with combat patches from the same deployment I was on and quickly made friends with those people.

I found it was also to my advantage to wear my combat patch when I was meeting new people in my unit. My job was to repair the computers that the army used and to order parts for their maintenance shops. When the motor sergeants saw my name and my combat, they knew that I knew what I was talking about when it came to how to properly maintain their computers.

I see both sides of this argument, however, the combat patches and badges were earned by the soldier and they should be able to wear them and give other members of their unit something to aspire to.

George Schmidt is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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