Military personnel, especially soldiers, are required to maintain the best appearance at all times. They are required to follow decorum, especially when it comes to dressing. Part of this mandate is the keeping and wearing of uniforms. This contributes to the well-groomed and neat appearance of all soldiers. This may seem trivial but has an important contribution to building the morale, pride and spirit of the military. Shabby looking military reflects low group morale, which leads to poor group performance. Smart looking units boost group morale and pride, leading to better confidence in the self and in the group.
Soldiers are mandated to wear their uniforms proudly and with respect. Part of their uniform is the patch. Military patches mean a lot of things. The Army mandates that these small scraps of fabric should be properly worn in the right place. It may be small and sometimes almost inconspicuous, but the meaning it bears is much heavier and more important.
A patch can be a branch insignia. That is, the military branch to which the soldier is assigned to is written on the patch. For example, the words “US ARMY” is clearly written on small rectangular patch. Branch insignias are worn above the left breast pocket of the uniform.
The soldier’s name is also part of the many patches worn on the military uniform. The soldier’s last name is written in a small rectangular patch. It is worn on all of the soldier’s uniform shirts and coats, a way of identifying him to his peers, both during combat and during military events and occasions. It also identifies him to civilians wherever he goes. This patch is placed above the right breast pocket.
The unit patch is another of the many military patches worn on the soldier’s uniform. The military requires all soldiers to wear the unit patch. It readily identifies the current unit assignment of the soldier. This is worn on the left shoulder of the uniform. Also, the patch denoting the current unit assignment is placed in front of the beret. Sometimes, the unit patch of a prior combat service is allowed to be worn on the left shoulder of the uniform.
The rank patch is one of the military patches that are placed on the left sleeve of the soldier’s uniform. This is prominently displayed. Often, the rank patch is a chevron, shaped like a vee. A single chevron denotes a lower rank, stacked chevrons mean a higher rank. Privates are denoted by a single chevron on the uniform’s left sleeve. The higher the rank, the more chevrons are on the patch.
The US flag is indispensable of the many military patches required to be worn by all soldiers. It is also worn in a unique way. The patch is a reverse image of the flag of the United States of America. It is designed this way so that the flag looks dynamic. To the observer, the flag looks as if it is flying in a stiff breeze and mounted on a pole held by the soldier. The field of stars of the US flag is positioned towards the front of the uniform. This design also has a very important meaning. This can differentiate a soldier from friends and enemies. That is, an improperly placed US flag patch means that the wearer is an impostor. Or, if the flag is worn upside down, the wearer is sending a silent distress signal to allies.
There are also special patches that a soldier is allowed to wear. Special patches indicate a distinction. Examples of special patches are those that the soldier acquires when they earn Special Forces, Airborne or Ranger qualifications. These special patches are worn on the left shoulder, above the unit patch.