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Types of Military Service Unit Patches & What They Mean

Types of Military Service Unit Patches & What They Mean

You may have seen patches and badges of various kinds on military uniforms. And as you go up the ranks, you’ll find more of these adorning the uniforms of the heroes who defend us. What you may not know is that these patches are more than just adornments; military service unit patches serve a significant purpose for rank, authority, and even mementos.

Types Of Military Service Unit Patches

While the purpose of a uniform in any service organization is, well, unity, there remains a need for distinctiveness, the need for identification. Custom military service unit patches help establish just that, along with carrying symbolic meanings.

There are different purposes for different types of military service unit patches, and we're delving into all of these to help you understand and appreciate them.

Insignia (Branch) Patches

Insignia patches are amongst the most primary military service unit patches, as these represent the branch of armed forces the wearer belongs to. The insignia patch will tell you whether the individual is a member of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine, and so on. This kind of custom patch typically takes priority on a uniform, present above the left side breast pocket.

Traditionally, military insignia patches are embroidered patches, though the shift in patch technology in the past few years has led to other types of patches taking their place. For instance, the use of PVC patches in military is quite common in tactical military patches, given that these possess incredible robustness and durability.

Flag Patches

One of the other types of military service unit patches that are present on all military personnel's uniforms are flag patches. A proud visual display of the nation they serve, a reminder of loyalty and purpose of service, and a means to establish importance amongst the civilian population—flag patches serve a lot of purposes.

The most fascinating fact about the flag patch on military uniforms is that the flag faces the opposite way! And no, it wasn't a mistake that just carried forward; the choice to make the American flag backward was deliberate.

This flag placement has played a crucial role in the history of military patches. During the Civil War, infantry and cavalry units would assign an individual to carry the flag as they moved forward for assault. The force of the wind made the flag fly backward—hence the reason why the flag patch is also backward.

Another reason for the positioning is the message delivered: that the wearers are promoting peace and democracy by facing battle…opposing the message that there's calmness (if the flag is forward-facing).

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Name Patches

When it comes to custom patches for organizations, name patches are essential. The lettering embroidered on a basic background is not just about informing people who the wearer is, but also about creating a sense of belonging.

On military uniforms, you’ll see name patches placed at the front above the right-hand side of the uniform. The lettering is bold to ensure easy readability both up close and from a distance. The design is simple and somber so that superiors and fellow service members can quickly identify the individual—an absolutely crucial factor out in the middle of combat.

Unit Patches

Next up in military service unit patches are THE unit patches. Military service members are divided into units during active warfare or combat. These units have unique numbers for identification, and this number is also present on the uniform of those in the unit, typically present as a custom patch.

Also known as Shoulder Sleeve Insignias (SSI), unit patches sometimes have unique artwork surrounding the unit or division number. If you’ve seen an active service uniform, you’ll see that these patches are present on the left shoulder of the uniform.

While these patches are commonly for active service members, retired service members also carry these on their uniforms. In fact, senior members who have served in combat may also wear unit patches on caps or carry as a keychain as a memento and a source of pride and recognition.

Rank/Rate Patches

Rank patches are sometimes known as rate patches, representing the service member's rank. Of course, over the course of their complete service period, members of the military may don various types of rank patches as their duties and authority change throughout their careers. Amongst the different types of military service unit patches, unit patches stand out as they carry stories about the soldiers who came before the ones who actively wore them.

Each time an individual’s rank increases, they receive a new patch that bears different characteristics and insignias compared to the previous. Rank patches play an important role in the identification and establishment of hierarchy. But what's more, they play an equally significant role in respect and recognition; after all, the rank patch is what represents growth, hard work, and dedication.

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Combat Patches

When you serve in combat in the military, or face enemy attacks on the battlefield, you get the honor of receiving a combat patch as a reward. These military service unit patches are displayed above the specialty (or Special Skills) patches on the uniform of the brave individuals, symbolizing the valor of the recipients.

Of course, like medals, combat patches products too are divided into categories according to the action the wearer is credited with. The Combat Infantryman patch is for the courageous soldiers in the Infantry and Special Forces. On the other hand, the Combat Action patch is a reward for service members who belong outside these categories. There’s also the Combat Medical patch, granted to the heroes who heroically provide medical aid despite the immense danger in the field of battle.

Tab Patches

One of the special military service unit patches you’ll come across are duty tab patches or specialty patches. Military service members who showcase exceptional performance, surpassing the call of duty in order to acquire specialized qualifications. In the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps these tactical patches are often replaced with warfare pins. The tab patch, also called the duty tab patch, is present on the left shoulder.

Special Skill Patches

Think of these patches as similar to getting a certificate for a special skill. These pieces are an affirmation of outstanding performance in both duties and specialized training programs are authorized to proudly display these on Army dress uniforms. Special Skill patches usually go below combat patches near the left shoulder.

Morale Patches

When it comes to boosting morale and keeping a reminder of milestones and reminders of fallen service members, you have military morale patches. These are made with different materials, though most units stick with embroidered morale patches to create a range of designs.

Some military morale patches are funny, with humorous and witty themes pertaining to service life. Others have motivational messages to inspire the wearers. Then there are morale patches that serve as a dedication to fallen heroes, representing courage.

While these are not the official military service unit patches as a part of standard military uniform, service member display morale patches occasionally on their tactical gear and accessories. In fact, even civilians can wear it, provided they respect their symbolism.

ThePatchio—Excelling In Myriad Types Of Military Service Unit Patches

At Elegant Patches, we take pride in creating custom patches for military, law enforcement, and firefighter organizations throughout the U.S. Reach out to us today. Our experts will process your design and provide you with high-quality durable patch products!

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