Requirements to Get a Combat Patch

When can you officially wear a Combat Patch? 

Well, it depends on who you ask and what your definition of officially is.

Going by the book, the true answer is the very first day that you step foot into a combat zone.

Whatever echelon unit you fall under during that time, you are authorized to wear the unit patch on your “slick-sleeve”.

The reference for this guidance can be found in our bible…ah, yes, AR-670-1, particularly Para. 28-17c (2) and Para. F-2a.

Here are the basic requirements to get a combat patch:

requirements to get a combat patchAuthorization to wear a shoulder sleeve insignia indicating former wartime service applies only to soldiers who are assigned to U.S. Army units that meet all the following criteria.

Soldiers who were prior members of other Services that participated in operations that would otherwise meet the criteria below are not authorized to wear the SSI–FWTS.

Wear is reserved for individuals who were members of U.S. Army units during the operations.

(1) The Secretary of the Army or higher must declare as a hostile environment the theater or area of operation to which the unit is assigned, or Congress must pass a Declaration of War.

(2) 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.

(3) The military operation normally must have lasted for a period of thirty (30) days or longer.

An exception may be made when U.S. Army forces are engaged with a hostile force for a shorter period of time, when they meet all other criteria, and a recommendation from the general or flag officer in command is forwarded to the Chief of Staff, Army.

Some examples of these exceptions are operations in the Dominican Republic, Panama and Grenada.

(4) The Chief of Staff, Army, must approve the authorization for wear of the shoulder sleeve insignia for former wartime service.

However, proceed with caution because most units hold very strongly to the 30-days to 6 month time frame rule.

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If your chain of command (and I am talking Battalion and higher) says that your are not “authorized” to wear it before they give you the nice little ceremony and deployment speech, then I wouldn’t push it.

AR 670-1 allows it, but to me, I think the little ceremony and recognition is worth the wait.

Remember, there is a BIG difference between authorized and mandatory.

While you may be “allowed” to wear the patch, your unit may not let you.

Some questions as to why company commanders would not allow the wear of the combat patch.

The common reason is to give new recruits a feeling of being part of so they won’t feel excluded.

Personally, I feel that is a bullshit reason.

If a soldier was in the midst of a combat zone, allow them the right to wear the patch.

Final  Thoughts

What are your thoughts about this subject?

Does your unit allow the wear?

You can leave all comments and questions below.

Thank you.

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Thanks for Your Service,

Chuck Holmes

SKYPE: mrchuckholmes
(352) 503-4816 home office
Email: chuck@part-time-commander.com

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22 thoughts on “Requirements to Get a Combat Patch

  1. Lucky Lobo

    No one seems to understand what the reg is ACTUALLY stating. They are saying if you are deployed in the name of an operation, the OPERATION must last longer than 30 days, not the time limit on earning the SSI-FWTS. All you need in order to be able to wear SSI-FWTS is 24 hours in combat zones within the operation that has fit the criteria listed in AR 670-1. That’s why they are sending soldiers into the areas for 1-3 days at a time in order to wear the patches.

    Reply
  2. Packer backer

    My unit deployed to kuwait and was sending Soldiers to Iraq for one to two days because the reg says “no time limit required”, and gave em their patches. I think this is dead wrong but no ody in my unit will say anything because they r scared of offending the CSM who is allowing it. Finding a “loop hole” in a reg to meet the requirements in my eyes is stolen valor.

    Reply
    1. grow up sgt snuffy

      The regulations are VERY clear. There is no LOOP HOLE. They specifically take an extra line to mention, NO TIME REQUIREMENT.

      If you are actively put in harms way (risk of direct or indirect fire) you earned it.

      Get out of here because you want some sort of bragging rights.

      Reply
  3. JAVI

    How would you rebuttle against what should have been a combat deployment and was classified as an operational one?

    It was a 12 month rotation about 40km from the border of Syria during the early stages of their civil war.

    Reply
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  5. David Anderson

    My wife was asking about combat patch and the requirements when a Vietnam vet was picking on Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa and her “combat” experience. The one thing that makes it official is orders. Until they are published with your name on them your right shoulder patch is not official. This usually doesn’t occur until return to conus but commanders will often will have an in theater ceremony at a certain time frame to have their soldiers sew on the right shoulder patch.
    Dave Anderson
    US Army, Retired

    Reply
    1. T. Deville

      There is no such thing as “orders” for a combat patch. As per official regulations, once you meet the qualifications for the SSI-FWTS you can wear it. You don’t even need an official ceremony. After the invasion of Iraq, people in my unit just started sewing them on their uniforms whenever they got around to it. Nobody made a big deal about it, and not one single order was ever printed up.

      Reply
  6. Amy Skalicky

    Great article, Chuck. I agree with the Army\’s limitation of only allowing US Army soldiers, or National Guardsmen, to only wear the combat patch for the Army. I have heard questions raised about former Marines who earned a combat patch during their time with that branch wearing it on their Army uniforms. While I respect the fact that they were in combat, it should be retired with the Marine uniform. I think the Army has every right to preserve its traditions.

    Reply
  7. Vivian

    Great explanation of what you need to do to get a combat patch. I always figured you needed to be in theatre for at least three months. Thanks for explaining it to me.

    Reply
  8. Augustain

    This is such a joke. You can get a combat patch without ever firing your weapon or engaging the enemy. They should change this so it isn’t unit wide. It should be on an individual basis, not unit basis.

    Reply
    1. chris schwan

      The majority of KIA’s in Iraq died without ever firing their weapon, and never engaged the enemy.

      Reply

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