Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (United States Army)

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (United States Army)

A United States Army Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (SSI) or shoulder patch is a cloth heraldic device that uniquely identifies major U.S. Army formations. It currently comes in four forms:

* Full Color - Worn on the Class A Uniform
* Subdued (Green/Black) - Worn on the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU)
* Desert Subdued (Tan/Brown) - Worn on the Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU)
* Subdued (Foliage Green/Gray) - Worn on the Army Combat Uniform (ACU)


Well-recognized examples are the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia for the 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division.

In the US Army, the SSI is worn on the left upper arm, just below the uniform's shoulder seam on all but the ACU. On the Army Combat Uniform the SSI is attached to a velcro backing and is then centered on rectangle of velcro on the arm.

Those soldiers who are combat veterans are authorized permanent wear of their SSI on their right shoulder. This shoulder sleeve insignia recognizes "former wartime service" and is frequently called a "combat patch". Per Army Regulation 670-1, a soldier is authorized to wear the SSI of their higher headquarters. This is not dependent on whether or not the higher headquarters deployed, or to whom the soldier was attached throughout his/her deployment [] . Exceptions have been made for operations of relatively short duration such as service in the Dominican Republic, Panama and Grenada.


The 81st Infantry Division "Wildcat" is generally agreed to have been first U.S. Army unit authorized an SSI. In 1918, during World War I, the 81st Division sailed for France after training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. On their left shoulder the men of the division wore an olive drab felt patch with the silhouette of a wildcat - after Wildcat Creek, a stream that flows through Fort Jackson. When men of the other fighting divisions challenged the right of 81st soldiers to wear the patch, General John J. Pershing ruled that the 81st could keep this distinctive insignia. He also suggested that other divisions adopt shoulder patches of their own. This patch was officially adopted by the U.S. Army on October 19, 1918.

Subdued patches and insignia were introduced during the Vietnam War and were made mandatory for wear on the field uniform starting July 1, 1970.

Cavalry units

Infantry units

pecial Operations units


External links

* [ Institute of Heraldry Shoulder Sleeve Insignia website]
* [ Airborne & Special Operations Insignia from Army Quartermaster Museum]

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