The Jungle Expert Tab: What You Should Know

Do you know, or have you seen a Soldier wearing a tab that says: Jungle Expert? Maybe you are quite familiar with uniform regulations, and you are curious about the where, why, and how this patch can be on a uniform.

In today’s post, we are going to research the Jungle Expert Tab: what you should know. Is it a new tab that you have not been made aware of?

Jungle Warfare History

At this time in history, our military has been performing their duties and missions mainly in areas with no jungles. The fact is: our military has operated in jungle territories over the years, and will probably do so again. As the Boy Scouts of America motto goes: Be Prepared!

Some of the jungle operations over the years that Soldiers have had to operate in include:

  • World War II jungles of Burma

  • Vietnam conflict

  • Korean war

  • Conflicts throughout South America

Forests and jungles cover approximately 30% of the world. Over the years, enemy forces have used these areas to perform tactics to succeed in their objectives. It just makes good sense that our military is trained on the proper techniques of jungle warfare.


When construction of the Panama Canal began in the early 1900’s, the United States knew that they would have to protect it from enemies. Fort Sherman was erected on the Caribbean side of the canal, and Fort Amador was built on the Pacific side.

Troops stationed at either Fort Amador or Fort Sherman had to understand the nature of the jungle. Panama was a complete jungle. As military operations grew in South America, key leaders knew that Soldiers should be trained in jungle warfare. United States Army South controlled Fort Sherman, and in 1951 they opened the Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC).

Jungle Operations Training Center

JOTC was used to train in jungle warfare. Both United States and Central American Soldiers could participate in this intensive course that taught everything a Soldier needed to survive in the jungle during combat. Upon graduating the course, the Jungle Expert Badge was awarded. Yes, it was a badge, and it could be worn by those who passed the jungle test, but we are talking a tab now right?

Fort Sherman and Fort Amador were both turned over to Panama in 1999. When that happened, the Jungle Operation Training Center was closed. The badge was then considered obsolete, but some Soldiers and officers have always realized a need for training in jungle warfare.


Major General Kurt Fuller was a graduate of the original JOTC. As commander of the Hawaii based 25th Infantry Division, he knew these Soldiers would have a strong advantage if they understood all the aspects of jungle warfare. Developing a 21 day course, Fuller and others have been making sure these Soldiers are prepared for combat in jungles.

You may wonder how that is working out with the Army Combat Uniforms. Sand colored uniforms just do not blend in the jungle very well. The new JOTC course was able to obtain the older Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs) for these training programs.

War in the deserts of the Middle East can be very different from jungle fighting. In the desert, you may be able to spot an enemy a mile away. In the jungle, an enemy could be just feet from you and not be seen. Soldiers are trained in all the signs and tactics to properly handle this kind of combat.

Army Wide?

No, not yet. While many officers and Soldiers believe this course should be Army wide, it isn’t. There is no outlook on whether the Army will open this course up for an approved course.

The Jungle Expert Tab is not an approved Army badge. Major General Fuller authorized this tab to only be on the uniforms of members of the 25th Infantry Division who have passed the course. If a Soldier is wearing this tab and are not attached to the 25th ID, they are in violation of uniform code. They may have earned the tab, but it needs to be put in a case somewhere, and not on their uniform.

JOTC Course

In my personal opinion, the Army will allow this tab, and will open the new JOTC course up Army wide. This course is full of great preparation for any Soldier who may be “plopped” into a jungle combat situation. The course is in 3 phases.

Phase 1

This is completely taught within the jungle environment. It includes:

  • survival techniques

  • navigation

  • insertion and extraction

  • water operations

  • communication

  • more

Phase 2

Phase 2 moves into the squad and platoon training which includes:

  • combat patrols

  • close quarter combat

  • ambush reaction

  • point and cover man

  • more

Phase 3

Everything learned thus far is moved to the company level situations. Missions will be provided and may include:

  • air assaults

  • raids and ambushes

  • attacks of all kinds

When finished, the Soldier will be completely prepared for jungle operations. They will then be given the Jungle Expert Tab and as long as they are assigned to the Pacific Command, the Soldier can wear the tab with pride.

Final Thoughts

We can all feel just a little safer knowing that many of our Soldiers are prepared in case enemies within jungle zones attack. Hopefully the Army will realize just how wise it is in having properly trained Soldiers in this type of warfare.

With that, I must say if you have earned the Jungle Expert Tab, you deserve to be proud, but do not wear it if you are now outside the 25th Infantry Division. Maybe in time, the Army will approve the wear of this coveted tab, but for now it is not approved.

If you do have the Jungle Expert Tab, we would love to hear from you. Please tell us about the training and your time in Hawaii. You have the right to be proud, and we will keep pushing for the Army to allow this great tab to be approved for wear. Just leave a comment below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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16 thoughts on “The Jungle Expert Tab: What You Should Know”

  1. Gil McGill (long Island NY)

    I was attached to the 20th Mechanized Infantry (known as the “Mech”) and stationed at Ft Clayton in Panama (Canal Zone) in the mid to late ’60s. Being infantry, we spent a LOT of time in the Panamanian jungles and it was miserable (constant rain, swarms of mosquitos, etc). In November of ’67 I found heard about JOC at Ft Sherman and volunteered for it. Ft Sherman was a true backwater base, and even nine years after Alaska and Hawaii had been in the union, it was still flying a 48 start flag. The school was later aptly rename (unofficially) “Green Hell”…and it was! It was not fun, but I was already acclimated to the jungle, so I was as used to it as one can get. After finishing the school, I went back to my regular unit (The “Mech”) at Ft Clayton and a few months later, I was called back to Ft Sherman TDY to work at the school. I stayed at Sherman for several months. I did the river crossings, in charge of the zip line over the Chagres River, leading night patrols and night ambushes, etc. It was all an incredible experience, and one of my first memories (and fondest) was being given the job of relocating a black spotted leopard at the base zoo from one pen into an adjoining pen. It was a beautiful animal but didn’t want any part of me….growling, snarling at me. All I wanted to do was pet it, but didn’t dare. I finally got it relocated in its new pen.
    Another thing about the Jungle School, there was no saluting, even though most of the men going through it were officers, even up to Lt. Col.

  2. I went to JOTC in 1975 and it doesn’t show on my DD214, I learned tons…. it was a great school! The modern Hawaiian version sounds a little weak, JOTC was 3 weeks. The booby trap course was excellent, as was the compass course… and the jungle! wow!!

  3. I am preparing my father’s class-A for his funeral. I remember as a kid growing up at Ft. Davis Panama 1978-1982 seeing his certificate and his badge. But it is not on his DD214. It’s not right if he earned it why not make it part of his awards!? I recently visited Panama and went back to what was know as Ft. Davis. The barracks are now used for a police academy. Great memories their and the pool is still being used. Everything looks like frozen in time. His army career inspired me to also join. I have my own mental battles now. Thank you all.

  4. Went thru at battalion level in 77. Learned a ton of stuff that has helped my throughout life. Still have my Jungle Expert patch on the khaki uniform I ETS’d in late 79. That patch, along with my Recondo Patch (101st Abn) although long gone now mean the world to me. Nobody rubber stamped them you had to work for it.

    Come on Big Army…there’s a ribbon for everything now or so it seems, what’s the big deal with a JE tab?

  5. Just a quick thought, as I read this. I turned 19 at JOTC in Ft. Sherman, while successfully completing and earning the JOTC Badge/Patch/TAB. While I loved the training, as put on by SF, and Navy personnel there, stationed at the school, I find it very aggravating to see the words, “PUT IN A CASE Somewhere”????????? What do you think, as a writer for this particular page, Part-time-commander, if you went through and graduated any military school, Airborne, Air Assault, EIB, Pathfinders, Navy Seal,….the list goes on and on, of earning distinction, through sweat and hard work, and integrity, loyalty, and perserverence and determination, only to be told, uh, we closed that fort, so you “can’t” wear your Jungle Expert Badge, even though you earned it…..Let that just linger there for awhile. Its ridiculous to be “sold” out, just because someone don’t think we JUNGLE EXPERTS have earned the badge and know it, to have earned it, and be told, put it in a case somewhere??? I won’t oblige you new Army folk, and your decisions…thats mine, and I will wear it, and be proud of it…..aside from what you all think. This article is insane. I don’t appreciate the thought here. Hope this gets to someone who can do all of us old USED UP VETS, the right thing, handle this the right way. Don’t put us in a case, on a shelf….wth???? Seriously????

    1. If you actually read the post, I do not agree with it being cased. I do believe you should be able to wear it, but by doing so you are breaking regulations not made by me.

      I feel for you, but please don’t shoot the messenger.

        1. I think it’s authorized USINDOPACOM-wide now. Might double check that and update the above. If you are assigned to a unit authorized to wear it, but did JOTC at Sherman instead of in Hawaii, can you still wear the patch?

      1. I went there in 76 for training from Ft Bragg, my unit 25th Sig BN/XVIII Airborne Corp, right in the midst of the Canal Zone strike. We were detained a few days after graduation and mission to protect, We were “authorized” to wear JOTC badge/patch/tab our uniforms. It should not be something in a “box”.

        1. Completely agree brothers. I took the training on 1982 at Ft Sherman. For my surprise, Wile looking at my 214 several years back, I noticed that It does not show my jungle training….Brow i was so depressed and Super mad that it took me a wile to stop bothering me so, so much….I do think its my bad because after separation from active duty in 1985 at Ft Jackson I remember that they issue there my 214 but did not noticed that the training was missing. I remember clearly that my certificate of the Jungle training competition was present in my 201 file .For sure the clerk did not typed or maybe was just jealous about it….I guess its kind of late now but super proud that i march true it with flying colors..

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