Army Combat Patch Rules: When and How to Wear the Patch

Combat patch rules reflect smaller echelon levels

army patch on uniform
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The Army combat patch, officially known as the "shoulder sleeve insignia-former wartime service," recognizes soldiers' participation in combat operations.

The Army has specific guidelines on when and how to wear the patch, which it has revised to reflect the fact that soldiers now are deployed at smaller echelon levels.

After 1945, only soldiers who were serving with large echelon deployed units, such as separate brigades, divisions, corps, Army commands or higher, were eligible to wear the combat patch.

"Soldiers deploy differently now, at smaller echelon levels such as companies, battalions, combat brigade teams and as individual augmentees in support of larger echelon units," said Sgt. Maj. Katrina Easley, branch chief for uniform policy at Army G-1. "At those levels they weren't authorized to wear their unit patch as a combat patch."

How to Wear the Army Combat Patch

Once soldiers report to their first units, they should wear their command's combat patch on their left sleeves. When deployed to a designated combat zone, soldiers also may wear the company-level or higher patch on their right sleeves to reflect the units in which they serve.

In the past, confusion resulted over which combat patch should be worn by soldiers who were cross-leveled, assigned, attached or serving as augmentees to deployed units. This also affected soldiers under temporary duty orders in a combat zone.

The new guidance states that when echelons below company level deploy, soldiers in those units may now wear the combat patch of the lowest-echelon command they deploy with, as long as it's at company level or higher.

More Requirements for the Combat Patch

In order to be eligible for the combat patch, soldiers must be serving in a theater or an area of operation that has been designated a hostile environment. Alternatively, Congress must pass a Declaration of War.

The units "must have actively participated in or supported ground combat operations against hostile forces in which they were exposed to the threat of enemy action or fire, either directly or indirectly," according to the regulations.

The military operation also must have lasted for 30 days or longer, although exceptions can be made to this rule.

Army personnel who served in a designated area as a civilian or as a member of another service but were not a member of the Army during one of the specified periods are not authorized to wear the combat patch.

Finally, soldiers who have earned multiple combat patches may choose which patch to wear. Soldiers may also elect not to wear a combat patch.

Controversies have arisen in recent years over brigade commanders' decisions to ban combat patches in certain situations. This has been done in an effort to make new recruits, who didn't have the patches, feel less excluded. Army regulations allow commanders to decide whether or not soldiers can wear the patches.


Army Regulation 670-1

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