Army patches are used to signify a soldier’s association, rank and distinctions.
Patches are usually located in the shoulders, the sleeve area, the combatant’s hat or beret or in the area of the chest. The placement and attachment of these patches on the Army Combat Uniform and the Army Service Uniform, is determined by Army Regulation 670-1 or the “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia.”
Patches Attached to the Army Combat Uniform (ACU)
The Unit Patches
Unit patches are attached to the ACU jacket. Velcro pads are located on both shoulders; the left shoulder space is for the unit to which you are assigned while the right is reserved for the any previous unit you have served under in other combat zones.
The Skill Tab Patches
The skill tab patches are patches that indicate further study and training received while in the Army such as training for the Rangers or Special Forces. These skill tab patches are located on the left shoulder above the unit patch. Soldiers are allowed up to three army skill tabs on their ACU.
The US flag
Perhaps one of the most distinctive patches to be placed on the ACU jacket, the flag identifies the combatant as a citizen of the USA. To attach the flag, press it onto the right shoulder pocket flap above the unit patch. The flag patch, as well as the skills tabs and unit patches should all be in subdued colors as to not attract unwanted attention in combat zones. They should blend in with the color scheme of the ACU jacket.
The Name Tape
The name tape with the army combatant’s last name is located on the right breast pocket. There is a thin and horizontal Velcro pad attached to it for this purpose. It should be in the same color scheme as the rest of the ACU jacket.
The Branch Tape
The branch signifies which part of the Department of Defense the soldier belongs to. The US Army Patch is attached using a thin Velcro strip to the left breast pocket of the ACU jacket. It should read “U.S. Army” and be of the same color scheme as the ACU jacket.
The Rank Tabs
There are two rank tabs. One will be attached to the front zipper seam of the ACU jacket while the other is attached to the patrol cap.
Patches Attached to the Army Service Uniform (ASU)
Tthe Enlisted Rank Patch
The enlisted rank patch is one of the most important components of an ASU jacket. This patch signifies the rank of each enlisted personnel. It can be attached through sewing the patch on by hand or taking it to a tailor to be professionally-done. As for placement, it is supposed to be located on the outer part of each sleeve (not just on one) and centered halfway between the elbow and shoulder.
The Service Stripes Patch
Service stripe patches are diagonal yellow bars that stand for three years of service in the Army. This is attached to the ASU jacket and located four inches above the cuff of the left sleeve and strategically positioned to slant forty five degrees from the bottom of the cuff.
The Overseas Service Bars
The overseas service bars are affixed to the ASU jacket. For this particular military patch, one bar symbolizes six months of service in a combat zone like Iraq or Afghanistan. The placement of the overseas service bars is centered on the right sleeve and located four inches above the jacket cuff. The overseas service bars may be hand-sewn or taken to a tailor for a more professional look.
Embroidered military patches are a crucial element to uniforms. When choosing a supplier for them, it is important to look for quality of stitching and attention to detail in their work.