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How to Order Thin Military Ribbons for Someone Else

Thin Military Ribbons for Others

Ordering thin military ribbons for someone else isn’t hard to do if you use USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder. However, it is important to be prepared with proper documentation to ensure you get the order correct.

Documentation like DD Form 214s or a service member’s personnel jacket can help you build a rack of thin military ribbons for someone else. In fact, one or both of those documents can make this possibly hard task very simple to pull off.

In case you’re wondering, there are plenty of reasons why you might order thin military ribbons for another person. For starters, someone in your unit might be permanently changing stations (PCS) and as a token of appreciation maybe the team chips in and buys them a plaque with thin military ribbons on them. This is a great way to capture a nice snap shot of someone’s career in a particular moment in time.

Similarly, maybe someone in your unit is retiring and the unit wants to give them an awesome, career-capturing shadow box that includes thin military ribbons. These are wonderful gestures that can include the service member’s final military award not only on the thin military ribbons rack, but also as a medal in the shadow box.

While there are certainly a multitude of reasons why you might buy thin military ribbons for someone else, for the sake of simplicity, we will use the PCS and retirement as an example for this blog post.

Who Can Help You Get Thin Military Ribbons for Others

Unit leaders are critical in helping manage going away and retirement gifts because they can help ensure gifts are accurate. If a unit is recognizing a service member who is getting reassigned, that service member’s first line leader can ensure that thin military ribbons that are being included on the plaque or in the shadow box are correct. They can meet with the personnel non-commissioned officers (NCO) and ensure that what is in the service member’s personnel record or jacket is what is reflected on the thin military ribbons rack.

Similarly, a personnel NCO can help check the awards and decorations of retiring service members to ensure all awards and decorations are included in the thin military ribbons rack that is assembled for the retirement shadow box.

It is important to note that regulations prohibit the unauthorized access and review of personnel files. These documents are protected, so it is key to work with unit leaders and the personnel team. Do not expect to be given someone’s personnel file or access to review their records. However, you can work with the unit leadership team and the personnel section to determine what awards and decorations the service member will have earned that should be included in the thin military ribbons rack.

How to Order Thin Military Ribbons

Using USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder to order thin military ribbons is simple. Simply navigate to the ribbon rack builder page, and then select the "Start a New Rack" button. Once you do that, the ribbon rack builder will take you to a landing page where you can select your service. USAMM’s ribbon rack builder has the ability to build racks for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Services and the Civil Air Patrol. You can order military thin ribbons or standard ribbons for these branches.

Once you select your service branch in the ribbon rack builder you will be asked to specify features of your ribbon rack. Again, you have the option to select thin military ribbons or standard ribbons. You will then have the ability to select your rack options. The ribbon rack builder allows you to pick how much space between ribbon rows (flush or 1/8 inch). The ribbon rack builder also allows you to choose if you want your ribbons aligned to the center or to the right. The ribbon rack builder allows you to choose if you want the rack of thin military ribbons to be three or four ribbons wide. Finally, select what type of backing you want on your ribbon rack. The ribbon rack builder allows you to choose magnetic or pin backing for your military thin ribbons.

The EZ Rack Builder allows you to then move on and select your ribbons and accompanying devices. As the rack is built in the ribbon rack builder, you can see and image of the rack as you digitally build it. Once you are done adding ribbons and devices, review the rack, and then add it to your shopping basket. It is super easy to use USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder. This great ribbon rack builder allows you to build a rack whenever you want, 24/7. And USAMM will ship it to you lightning fast.

Thin Military Ribbons

While there is nothing wrong with gifting a thin military ribbons rack, it might be more hassle than it is worth if you’re trying to surprise someone or show them that you support their military service. In this case, you might be better off buying someone a gift card which will enable them to build and buy their own thin military ribbons rack.

USAMM sells digital and hard plastic gift cards that can be loaded at various monetary levels. These can help the service member in your life offset the cost of their thin military ribbons.

And remember, USAMM builds custom racks of thin military ribbons for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Space Force. USAMM is also proud to build racks of thin military ribbons for the Civil Air Patrol and the U.S. Public Health Service.

How Military Thin Ribbons Help Showcase Your Achievements


Military Thin Ribbons Make Great First Impressions

An old adage states, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” and that is certainly true when it comes to the U.S. military. Most people can remember the first time they spoke with a military service member. Their professionalism, military bearing, and appearance were likely impeccable.

Service personnel like to put their best foot forward, especially when they are in their service dress uniforms and wearing their military ribbons. Most service personnel spend a lot of personal time and money to ensure that their uniforms are perfect. They apply the attention to detail they learned in basic training to ensure their uniforms properly reflect credit on the service branch they belong to.

It is not just about service pride. Service personnel take pride in looking their best because it is personally rewarding to them. Some service members build their own ribbon racks and use the issued badges and uniform items to assemble their uniforms. Others go above and beyond, buying mirrored badges over oxidized, and military thin ribbons instead of the regular standard ribbons issued by supply or the first sergeant.

It might seem like a small detail that is insignificant, but military thin ribbons can make a big difference on the kind of impression that is left. In some cases, the service member gets only one chance to make that first impression.

For example, many service personnel compete for promotions or other opportunities through boards. Boards are comprised of leaders that examine a military member’s military bearing, knowledge, job performance, training and education, and of course, their appearance.

While some might argue that military thin ribbons are not necessary, it is hard to argue that military thin ribbons do not leave a great impression. What’s not to like?

Military Thin Ribbon Characteristics

Military thin ribbons have a lot of great characteristics which make them an obvious choice over standard ribbons. For example, military thin ribbons are much lighter than the standard ribbons and that is primarily because each individual ribbon uses considerably less brass than a standard ribbon rack. In fact, they do not use any brass at all.

In addition, military thin ribbons use glued on devices which makes them appear much neater. On ordinary standard ribbon racks, the device has two prongs that are pushed through the ribbon and then bent out to hold the device in place. Sometimes when the device’s prongs are poked through the ribbon, they are not perfectly centered or placed where they should be. Even worse, poking the ribbon with the prongs frays the ribbon and awkwardly stretches the ribbon’s fabric giving the ribbon a wrinkled, sunken look.

Lastly, sliding a ribbon with a pronged device onto a ribbon rack has its challenges. Sure, it is nothing insurmountable, but it is much easier just to order military thin ribbons on USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder.

It is also important to remember that buying military thin ribbons from USAMM enables you to get your military thin ribbons done in one fell swoop. You won’t have to drive around and make multiple trips to pick up uniform items. Have you ever gone to pick up a needed ribbon only to learn that it is sold out because every other service member on post who is appearing before a board had the same idea to get their ribbon racks in order? Or the device you need, which is on your records, is on back order?

Order military thin ribbons using USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder and you won’t have to worry about on-post supply issues. You won’t have to chase down all the components to put together your ribbon rack. USAMM has everything in one stop.

How to Order Military Thin Ribbons

Using USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder to order military thin ribbons is simple. Simply navigate to the ribbon rack builder page, and then select the "Start a New Rack" button. Once you do that, the ribbon rack builder will take you to a landing page where you can select your service. USAMM’s ribbon rack builder has the ability to build racks for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Services and the Civil Air Patrol. You can order military thin ribbons or standard ribbons for these branches.

Once you select your service branch in the ribbon rack builder you will be asked to specify features of your ribbon rack. Again, you have the option to select military thin ribbons or standard ribbons. You will then have the ability to select your rack options. The ribbon rack builder allows you to pick how much space between ribbon rows (flush or 1/8 inch). The ribbon rack builder also allows you to choose if you want your ribbons aligned to the center or to the right. The ribbon rack builder allows you to choose if you want the military thin ribbons to be three or four ribbons wide. Finally, select what type of backing you want on your ribbon rack. The ribbon rack builder allows you to choose magnetic or pin backing for your military thin ribbons.

The EZ Rack Builder allows you to then move on and select your ribbons and accompanying devices. As the rack is built in the ribbon rack builder, you can see and image of the rack as you digitally build it. Once you are done adding ribbons and devices, review the rack, and then add it to your shopping basket. It is super easy to use USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder. This great ribbon rack builder allows you to build a rack whenever you want, 24/7.

If you are looking to make a great first impression, military thin ribbons built by the military professionals at USAMM can help you present the proper image that not only reflects great credit upon yourself, but also upon your service branch.

Ribbon Rack Builder Basics: Everything You Need to Know


Ribbon Rack Builder Overview

A ribbon rack builder can help even the most seasoned veteran assemble their thin or standard ribbons in just a few minutes. The best part about using a ribbon rack builder is that you won’t have to then assemble your ribbon rack on your own.

Using a ribbon rack builder enables you to avoid the frustration of assembling a ribbon rack on your own. No more trips to the first sergeant’s office, supply or your local military store where you have to painstakingly walk around, gather all your ribbons, your rack, and devices. Because once you are done collecting everything you need, then your fun really begins. You have to assemble the rack with the care of building a model.

If you use a ribbon rack builder like USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder, all you do is click on the ribbons you need and a USAMM veteran ribbon rack builder will ensure your ribbon rack is built according to your service’s regulations. They will also ensure that the ribbons are in order of precedence and spaced and aligned however you want them.

Whether you want thin ribbons or standard sized ribbons, using USAMM’s ribbon rack builder, EZ Rack Builder, is the way to go if you want to look your best. Remember, you also have a choice of selecting what kind of backing you want on your ribbon rack. You can choose a magnetic backing or a traditional pin backing on your ribbon rack when you are building it in USAMM’s ribbon rack builder.

How to Use USAMM’s Ribbon Rack Builder

Using USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder ribbon rack builder is simple. Simply navigate to the ribbon rack builder page, and then select the "Start a New Rack" button. Once you do that, the ribbon rack builder will take you to a landing page where you can select your service. USAMM’s ribbon rack builder has the ability to build racks for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Services and the Civil Air Patrol.

Once you select your service branch in the ribbon rack builder you will be asked to specify features of your ribbon rack. You have the option to select thin or standard ribbons. You will then have the ability to select your rack options. The ribbon rack builder allows you to pick how much space between ribbon rows (flush or 1/8 inch). The ribbon rack builder also allows you to choose if you want your ribbons aligned to the center or to the right. The ribbon rack builder allows you to choose if you want the ribbon rack to be three or four ribbons wide. Finally, select what type of backing you want on your ribbon rack. The ribbon rack builder allows you to choose magnetic or pin backing.

The EZ Rack Builder allows you to then move on and select your ribbons and accompanying devices. As the rack is built in the ribbon rack builder, you can see and image of the rack as you digitally build it. Once you are done adding ribbons and devices, review the rack, and then add it to your shopping basket. It is super easy to use USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder. This great ribbon rack builder allows you to build a rack whenever you want, 24/7.

Helpful Tips

Preparation is the key to anything and using USAMM’s EZ Rack Builder is no different. If you are a veteran with just a handful of ribbons and medals, assembling your rack on the ribbon rack builder shouldn’t be too complicated. However, if you’re of the crusty veteran variety who has been around the world a few times, deployed multiple times and you’ve got more time in uniform than some people do on earth, then odds are, you might need to get organized before you visit the ribbon rack builder platform.

If you’ve got more than three or four rows of ribbons, there is a chance you might forget to add a ribbon to your rack while you’re building it using the ribbon rack builder (EZ Rack Builder) at USAMM. Ensure you have your DD Form 214 handy that includes all of your medals and ribbons. If you don’t have a DD Form 214, then ensure that you have a copy of your personnel file that lists all of your awards. Following this list carefully will enable you to build the custom rack you’ve earned. Remember, if your records are wrong, then your rack will be wrong.

It is also important to remember that you should not buy anything that you have not earned. Life happens and while in most cases a little proactivity is a good thing, it can also create headaches. For example, let’s say you are deployed and your supervisor tells you they are recommending you for a commendation medal. At the end of your tour, you get excited and you order a new rack built on the ribbon rack builder at USAMM. It includes the new commendation medal that your boss said you would earn. There’s only one problem. It was downgraded to an achievement medal and now you have the wrong rack with an award you did not earn.

Patience can go a long way to ensure that your racks are correct and that you purchased what you have actually earned. Remember, in 1996 the chief of naval operations killed himself over ribbon devices that journalists discovered he was not authorized to wear. In the end, the admiral was supported by those who had told him he was authorized to wear the devices, but the Navy stated he was not authorized to wear them. There’s no need to get involved in a stolen valor situation. Ensure your records are up to date and then order your rack using the ribbon rack builder on USAAM’s website.

They will be assembled professionally and according to regulation and delivered to your door.

Thin Ribbons vs. Standard Ribbons: An Overview


Thin Ribbons History

The use of military ribbons on military uniforms in the form of a ribbon rack began in the U.S. military during the early 1900s when the services sought a more functional way to display military awards. At the time, military awards and decorations saw a significant increase in creation and establishment and a more inclusive awards criteria was ushered in.

According to the U.S. Navy, in 1905 the U.S. Army with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, created awards for wear on the military uniform which commemorated service in military campaigns. Three years later in June 1908, the U.S. Navy issued Special Order No. 81 which authorized awards from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion.

Ordinarily, decorations had been reserved for formal uniforms, but in the 1900s the U.S. military’s uniform practices shifted and military personnel started to use ribbons on their duty uniforms to reflect awards and decorations they had earned. There was a functional need to display awards and decorations on the work uniform as more and more military personnel participated in expeditionary-type missions.

As time went by, the clunky and chunky ribbon racks of eras gone by gave way to the creation of thin ribbons in the 1990s.

The Rise of Thin Ribbons

Thin ribbons entered the military mainstream sometime in the early 1990s along with shorter military haircuts. Both were born out of the Gulf War. Military personnel cut their hair shorter to deal with the scorching desert heat when they deployed to defend Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and they started rocking a much neater look on their military uniforms as well. The new thin ribbons were crisper, more professional in appearance.

The Gulf War saw a rise in awards and decorations. Foreign medals and their accompanying ribbons were presented for the conflict and new U.S. medals were created to commemorate participation in the operation. As ribbon racks grew, thin ribbons were introduced into the uniform scene and many service personnel preferred them over the standard ribbon racks they could aseemble themselves.

Preference for Thin Ribbons

For starters, thin ribbons weigh so much less than standard ribbons, and if you’ve got a lot of ribbons, thin ribbons are the way to go. Thin ribbons also look much more professional and exude a stronger, crisper military presence.

Thin ribbons can also be mounted in two different ways, with magnets or with pins. USAMM offers both magnetic thin ribbons and pin-backed thin ribbons. The magnetic thin ribbons are better suited for uniform shirts and smaller racks, whereas the pin-backed thin ribbons are better for the service dress uniform jackets since the jackets are thicker. Pin-backed thin ribbons are hold in place better.

Standard Ribbons vs Thin Ribbons

Standard ribbons show military bearing; always have, always will. That’s why USAMM sells them and you can assemble a ribbon rack on our EZ Rack Builder. But thin ribbons for many service personnel, are the way to go. They give off a higher level of professionalism and they look much better than standard ribbons.

As a career military professional, thin ribbons are undoubtedly the way to go. It is a small investment into your appearance that can make all the difference in your career. In a promotion board, chunky, frayed, standard ribbons painstakingly assembled piecemeal from ribbons gathered from the first sergeant or supply, can cost you a promotion or a special assignment.

Thin ribbons make you look tighter, more put together and more professional. They also show that you are willing to invest in yourself and that your profession is important to you.

Still not convinced? Try them both and see for yourself. You can assemble a standard ribbon rack and also put together a set of thin ribbons. Try them on your Class Bs and Class As and see how they function for you in the workplace and for photos and promotions.

Ultimately, you need to select what works better for you. Maybe thin ribbons work best for more professional settings where a Class A or service uniform will be used. You can order thin ribbons for a graduation or some other special unit function.

The standard ribbon racks can be reserved for day-to-day use if you like to wear your ribbons at work. Perhaps you are an instructor or work in an environment where displaying your standard ribbons shows professionalism. Whatever the case, USAMM has the EZ Rack Builder that can help you assemble a standard ribbon rack or thin ribbons.

It’s important to note that USAMM is a company founded by a veteran, for veterans, and it employs veterans. Our EZ Rack Builder platform takes your order and then it is sent to rack builders who assemble your racks. Our rack builders are veterans and will assemble your racks with as much attention to detail as if it was their own.

You can definitely still buy or acquire standard thick ribbons on your own and then slide them onto the ribbon rack bar which can be a pain if you have devices. Even without devices, sliding those things on is a hassle. The ribbons pry open too far and then can be loose on the rack and while you are handling them, they can get frayed and soiled.

That’s why getting thin ribbons is the best thing you can do. In a few minutes you can order it on EZ Rack Builder and we will ship it to you ASAP. No fuss, no muss. Thin for the win.

Tactical Shooting Gloves: The Ultimate Guide


Tactical Shooting Gloves History

Tactical shooting gloves have evolved over time in the military and paramilitary professions. As close quarters combat rose to become one of the spaces many operate in, some in the military and paramilitary professions started wearing gloves to help them grip their weapon better.

Those early gloves varied in material from leather or wool to synthetics. Those who wore them modified them in different ways. Some cut the glove at the fingers so digits could be exposed for more dexterity while others simply liberated finger pads to be able to pull the trigger better.

Others taped small metal plates to their palms of their gloves, creating some of the first hand protection to be used to defend against knife attacks. Remember, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish you had at a later time.” Necessity, as we know, is the mother of invention and soldiers and police officers made tactical shooting gloves into what they needed.

Tactical Shooting Gloves Today

The tactical shooting gloves of today are the end state of the evolution we just described. But still, even today’s tactical shooting gloves are evolving. Manufacturers are designing lighter, more durable, more flexible products for tactical shooters.

Not to mention, tactical shooting gloves are now more than just shooting gloves. They are an essential part of any tactical kit and they can not only serve as tactical shooting gloves, but they can also help those who wear them maneuver obstacles without risk of tearing skin, protect against assailant attack, break sharp materiel without risk of injury, and use tactical ropes (rappel) to breach a facility. They can also keep hands warm in severe weather.

That said, tactical shooting gloves don’t have to be reserved for tactical situations and use. Tactical shooting gloves are great to use in most outdoor activities like hunting, shooting sports, camping, climbing and hiking. They are also fantastic to use if you ride mountain bikes, dirt bikes or use all-terrain vehicles.

Types of Tactical Shooting Gloves


Multipurpose tactical shooting gloves are ideal for any situation mentioned above. Most have padded palms and knuckles that protect your skin from injury. Whether you are working on a ranch or rappelling from a rope, these gloves provide the necessary protection you need to protect your most important tools; your hands.

Many of them have removable finger coverings to allow you to use that touch screen to call in an airstrike. Okay, not really, just checking to see if you’re still reading, but those removeable glove finger pads can help you use a touch screen and also help with dexterity whatever you might be tackling.


Needlestick-resistant gloves aren’t really tactical shooting gloves, but they can be. They are resistant to punctures from hypodermic needles and highly resistant to cuts from glass and sharp blades. They’re ordinarily worn by sanitation workers, healthcare workers and law-enforcement personnel, especially those who work on anti-drug task forces and who participate in drug raids and might encounter hypodermic needles. 

Some of these gloves are made of knit materials and they are breathable. Others are made of leather and have a needlestick-resistant inner layer with an abrasion-resistant leather exterior.


As mentioned, tactical shooting gloves do not need to be used solely for shooting. They can be used in a wide array of activities and because they are designed to protect hands and to provide maximum dexterity, they are great for any kind of activity to include snowmobiling, climbing, and outdoor work.

Many of these gloves have rubber at the finger tips which allow for better gripping. They have shock absorbing technology that withstands most impacts and at least one fingertip is enabled for use with touch screens so you won’t have to take off your gloves to use a device.

Tactical Shooting Gloves (Features)

Choosing the right tactical shooting gloves is hard enough, but they come in a variety of materials that can be hard to choose from. The key is to select a glove material that suits your needs. There are some people who might wear their gloves for an extended period of time in a rugged environment, and others might just need them on for a tactical scenario that might only last 15 minutes. Which tactical shooting gloves to select depends much on the mission of the person wearing them. Comfort, protection and dexterity are key.

Tactical shooting gloves come in all sorts of material like neoprene, polyester, wool, leather, and rubber just to name a few choices. Some tactical shooting gloves have combinations of many of these materials.

Remember, leather is a tough, natural product that when combined with other materials can make great tactical shooting gloves. Aromatic polyamides are an intensely strong material with many military and tactical applications. These might cost a little more, but if you’re in a profession where you are literally in the trenches, there likely aren’t more lightweight and durable gloves out there. These will likely do the best at protecting your hands from injury.

Neoprene and polyester tactical shooting gloves can be good too. Neoprene has great moisture wicking tendencies so if you are working in a wet or humid environment, consider these. And polyester might also be a good choice in wet and humid climates because it absorbs moisture away from the skin and enables the wearer’s skin to breathe. The bottom line is to find a material that will provide you with the weather resistance that you need, and the tactical protection that you require.

Tactical Shooting Gloves Padding

Knuckles take a beating. Whether you are turning a wrench or apprehending an assailant, your hands, particularly your knuckles, will get banged up on the job without the proper protection.

When you are shopping for your tactical shooting gloves, ensure they provide the necessary protection you need to your knuckles. Ample padding should be around the glove’s knuckle area, but it shouldn’t impede dexterity and mobility of your fingers. If you’re in the infantry, padded knuckles are a must-have.

Palm pads are also a critical component of tactical shooting gloves. The material of the pads is dependent, again, on your mission. Consider palm pads that are made of tactical materials used in military helmets or flak vests if your profession is tactical in nature, like infantryman, street cop, or special operator.

Other Features of Tactical Shooting Gloves

Gloves are definitely not a one size fits all type of thing. Ensure you are getting gloves that fit you properly. This will lessen the chances of excess material bunching up in your fingers creating dexterity issues when things matter the most.

Some gloves are adjustable and customizable. For example, in some cases, you can remove the fingertips of the glove, or at least one of the fingertips to allow for better grip or screen use. Given the expanded use of touch screens in everyday life, this is a great feature. Not to mention, touch screens have long since been introduced into tactical equipment, so it is nice to have a free finger to manipulate your screens.

Users can also purchase gloves that are adjustable around the wrist. This enables a more snug fit, especially for those who might fluctuate in weight throughout the year.

Tactical Shooting Gloves for Tactical Fun

Tactical shooting gloves have a very real and serious purpose, but they can also be used to protect your hands while you’re having fun. For all the same reasons a combat arms or paramilitary professional might need tactical shooting gloves, they can also be used for fun while enjoying paintball games or airsoft matches.

The velocity that paintball and airsoft rounds travel can definitely hurt like hell. So it is important to not only use all the recommended protective equipment, but it is essential to have a great set of tactical shooting gloves that will not only provide protection, but the needed dexterity to play in the fast-moving world of paintball and airsoft.

Whatever your reason for needing tactical shooting gloves remember that they are protecting what is likely one of the most necessary parts of your body. Do a lot of research and shop around. Try on multiple pairs and see how they work. Return them to the store if they are not what you need. Nobody should be saddled with gear that doesn’t work.

Above all, remember, get what you need for the mission you do. Your hands will love you for it.

Submarine communication in the Navy

Submarine Communication Overview 

The U.S. Navy operates two extremely low frequency (ELF) radio transmitters to communicate with its deep diving submarines. The sites at Clam Lake, Wisconsin and Republic, Michigan are operated by the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station – Atlantic. The Clam Lake site, located in the Chequamegon National Forest in Northern Wisconsin, is the site where testing began for ELF communications more than 30 years ago. The submarine communication site has more than 28 miles of over-head signal transmission line that form part of the “electrical” antenna to radiate the ELF signal from the two-acre transmitting facility.

The Clam Lake ELF radio station broadcasts messages to the fleet as required by the Navy Submarine Broadcast Control Authority in Norfolk, Virginia or Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. For the U.S. submarine fleet to perform its mission, it must remain silent and be undetectable.

The Navy’s ELF submarine communication system is the only operational communications system that can penetrate seawater to great depths and is virtually jam proof from both natural and man-made interference. It is a critical part of America’s national security in that it allows the submarine fleet to remain at depth and speed and maintain its stealth while remaining in communication with the national command authority.

With other submarine communication systems, continuous communication is possible only when submarines deploy a receiving antenna while operating at or near the surface. This requirement imposes an enormous restriction upon the submarine's operating depth and its speed, as well as increasing its exposure to detection.

ELF Submarine Communication

The ELF submarine communication system permits submarines to receive communications without reducing speed or operating at the surface. Thus, the ELF system represents a critical safeguard against a scientific breakthrough in submarine detection by another nation using aircraft or satellite systems that exploit non-acoustic phenomena such as kelvin wakes and internal waves near the surface.

ELF submarine communication systems make use of a principle in physics where the attenuation of radio signals (electromagnetic waves) from seawater increases with the frequency of the signal. This means that the lower the frequency a radio transmission, the deeper into the ocean a useable signal will travel.

Radio waves in the Very Low Frequency (VLF) band at frequencies of about 20,000 Hertz (Hz) penetrate seawater to depths of only tens of feet. The Navy’s ELF system operates at about 76 Hz, approximately two orders of magnitude lower than VLF. The result is that ELF waves penetrate seawater to depths of hundreds of feet, permitting submarine communication while maintaining stealth.

Each ELF antenna works as an independent horizontal electric dipole. The two ELF transmitting sites synchronize their transmissions to provide greater coverage to most of the earth’s oceans in which United States submarines operate. They are located geographically to take advantage of the bedrock layer (Precambrian metamorphic) and overlying rocks (Paleozoic) of the Superior Upland shield. This geological formation channels ELF currents deep into the ground and effectively increases the size of the antenna for more efficient signal transmission. The conductivity of the bedrock layer helps to improve the efficiency of the antenna system (that is, the lower the conductivity, the more improvement in effective transmitted power).

The areas chosen for the ELF system have low conductivity rock (rock that does not conduct electricity well) that produce the best results for creating an ELF antenna. In these areas, electrical current flows deep into the ground (hundreds of meters) before returning to the opposite antenna terminal ground.

The eight-watt ELF signal radiates from the dual-site system and travels around the world through the atmospheric layer between the earth's surface and a zone of charged air particles known as the ionosphere. As these electromagnetic waves pass over the ocean’s surface, some of their energy passes into the ocean. This energy, or signal, reaches submarines almost worldwide at depths of hundreds of feet and traveling at operational speeds.

All Navy submarines are equipped with ELF receivers that can decode ELF transmissions. ELF broadcast signals provide a one-way message system to submarines that is slow, but reliable. The submarines can receive ELF messages but they cannot transmit ELF signals because of the large power requirements, the large transmitter size, and the large antenna required to transmit ELF. Submarine communications can occur on or near the ocean’s surface with higher data rate systems such as satellite communications systems.

Submarine Communication in Wisconsin and Michigan

The Northern Wisconsin area was selected as a location for the Navy’s ELF facility because of its geology. The low conductivity bedrock is important because the ELF wave uses the bedrock to help complete the signal path for the antennas. The Navy selected the Clam Lake site for submarine communications because of these geological conditions and the opportunity to conduct the early research work on federal land and minimize or eliminate the need to disturb landowners, homeowners, and communities.

The ELF antenna’s layout in the Chequamegon National Forest uses techniques such as “screening” (using trees, changes in geography, and changes in antenna direction) to improve the visual appearance of the system in the forest. The creation of the antenna right-of-way also played an important role in the in the State of Wisconsin's successful reintroduction of elk into Northern Wisconsin.

The antenna right-of-way is about 75 feet wide, allowing elk and deer to move freely and quickly through the Chequamegon National Forest in the area near the 28 miles of antenna lines. Additionally, the Navy’s maintenance cycle of clearing brush in the right-of-way continually renews young plants that are important to elk, deer and other wildlife. The rights-of-way for the antenna and the grounding array are open to the public.

During the late 1950s, researchers and scientists theorized that submarine communication ELF radio waves could deeply penetrate the oceans and would permit communications with deep-diving nuclear powered submarines. This theory suggested the potential for a unique capability not available with other radio frequencies, and the U.S. Navy began testing in the ELF radio spectrum.

The Navy needed to determine the feasibility of building such a submarine communication system for sending messages to submerged submarines such as the Polaris missile boats. If ELF transmissions worked as hoped, Navy submarines would not have to rise to or near the surface to receive messages from the national command authority. This would allow the submarines to remain hidden at depth, be more difficult to detect, and improve operational safety while maintaining a link to the national command authority.

The ELF system of today — a two-transmitter site submarine communication system with the transmitter facilities and antenna system above ground — was evaluated over other submarine communication systems and ultimately chosen for implementation. Initially, the ELF transmitter and antenna system was envisioned to be very large and capable of transmitting control orders to the submarine fleet.

Submarine Communication 1970s and 1980s

During the mid-to-late 1970s, the Wisconsin Test Facility was used to send messages during a number of tests conducted on submarines in both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and under the Arctic ice cap to assess the utility of the system. The Environmental Impact Statement was prepared and supplemented as required by changes in the system’s concept. After analyzing the results of the research and the various systems that might be employed, the current ELF communications system was selected because it was the smallest and most cost-effective system meeting the Navy’s mission requirements.

In the mid-1980s, the Wisconsin Test Facility was upgraded and redesignated as the Wisconsin Transmitter Facility, and construction of a second transmitter facility 148 miles away in Republic, Michigan was proposed. In 1985, the Clam Lake site attained an initial operating capability. In the Fall of 1989, when the Michigan site became fully operational, the Wisconsin site was renamed the Naval Radio Transmitter Facility Clam Lake.

The entire ELF submarine communication system became fully operational Oct.1, 1989 when the two transmitter sites began synchronized transmitting of an ELF broadcast to the submarine fleet 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

An Antenna Well Grounds System was introduced in the mid-1980s, as part of a transmitter facility upgrade at the end of several of the ELF antenna lines, with a resulting improvement in safety. Well Grounding Arrays require less maintenance, reduce ground surface electrical potentials and minimize potential impacts to local habitat.

Based on the success of this previous ground terminal upgrade work, the Navy anticipates replacing the other existing grounds for the antenna at the Clam Lake site in the next several years. In conjunction with these upgrades, the Navy will work with the U.S. Forest Service – the manager of the Chequamegon National Forest – to ensure the required ecological, environmental, cultural and historic requirements are met.

Dealing with Deployment: 5 Ways to Stay Connected


Even the strongest of relationships can be pushed to their limits during the stressors of deployment. However, while dealing with deployment can be a challenge, with a little preparation and some communication, a relationship can come out stronger on the tail end of a deployment.

Many experts state that the key to dealing with deployment is being honest, open and to communicate. Today, unlike in wars past, communication is for the most part fairly quick and it is much easier to stay in touch with loved ones during a deployment.

Over the years one of the many lessons learned by the U.S. military is that a happy service member is more likely to effectively execute his or her mission if morale is high. A key to good morale is ensuring that service members have a line of communication to the home front and to their loved ones back home.

During World War II, according to the Smithsonian Institute, “For members of the armed forces the importance of mail during World War II was second only to food. The emotional power of letters was heightened by the fear of loss and the need for communication during times of separation. Messages from a husband, father, or brother, killed in battle might provide the only surviving connection between him and his family. The imminence of danger and the uncertainty of war placed an added emphasis on letter writing. Emotions and feelings that were normally only expressed on special occasions were written regularly to ensure devotion and support.”

On average, it could take almost a month for mail to come from overseas to the United States, and even longer to reach service members fighting on the frontlines when coming from the United States. Much depended on what type of assignment a service member had and his or her access to the logistical chain. Today’s modern networks keep our men and women connected to their loved ones like never before and it is why the military ensures that its service members have connectivity.

There are several ways of dealing with deployment, but this post will focus on the best five ways to stay connected, presented in no particular order. Keep in mind, not all military personnel will have the ability to stay connected using some of these methods. Some service members serve in austere conditions and might only have connectivity to their higher headquarters or they may share a satellite phone and might only have “morale call” access to the phone for only a couple of minutes per month. The key is to be flexible and use whatever resources are available to make the best out of the situation.

Dealing with deployment using e-mail

E-mail is certainly the easiest way to keep in touch with loved ones because it does not require any type of coordination. Trying to coordinate a phone call with someone who is 12,000 miles away can be a challenge especially when operational and domestic requirements are factored into the mix. Life keeps moving and a deployment is an added challenge.

E-mail is great because you just need connectivity. Remember, if you’re a forward deployed service member, consider your OPSEC training and be careful with what you are sending. Also consider OPSEC if you are attaching photos and ask yourself if they show anything that bad guys can use against you or your fellow service personnel.


If electronic mail is out of the question because the service member is at an outpost or location that lacks a network to connect them to the outside world then maybe snail mail is a better option. OPSEC rules still apply because mail has to traverse land, air and maybe even sea in order to get to where it is going, so service members should ensure that nothing that is vital to operational security is included in the letter.

And if a service member is short on stationery, they can simply cut a piece of cardboard, address it, and write on it like a postcard. True story, to test this, a USAMM employee who was deployed to Iraq in 2004 cut out a part of an MRE box, addressed it like a postcard and wrote his wife a message as he was at a remote combat outpost. She got it about 10 days later in the United States.

Letters work and are especially touching when written by hand. They don’t need to be long, but pouring yourself into a handwritten letter is one of the more favorite ways to communicate for families and a great way of dealing with deployment.


While most would prefer to hear the voice of a loved one, chats are a great way of dealing with deployment because it enables those separated by deployment to have a prolonged digital “conversation” with a loved one. Remember, the situation on the ground gets a vote.

For example, in 2004, a USAMM employee who is a veteran and was deployed to Iraq, knew a captain who volunteered to be a battle captain on the night shift. He did not have access to a phone to call home regularly, but by being a battle captain it gave him access to a desktop computer. He was not only able to e-mail his family from his government account weekly (something allowed by his command), but he was also able to chat with his wife almost nightly.

The battle captain would login in the overnight hours and his wife would login as she was starting her day at work. Both would get to interact with each other as they performed their duties. Granted, not everyone will be this fortunate to have this kind of access, but if they do, chats are a great way to keep in touch because it provides an instantaneous manner in which to communicate and a great way of dealing with deployment.

Phone Calls

For the most part, most service members will have the opportunity to call home during a deployment unless they are operationally bound to cut all communications with their loved ones until the mission is complete. Most don’t serve in that type of capacity, so odds are great that military families can hear the voice of their loved ones during their deployments.

In some cases, some folks are lucky and get to talk to their loved ones regularly thanks to liberal command communications policies. Many forward areas have phone banks and internet cafes where service members can call home or write regularly at any hour of the day.

Dealing with deployment becomes much easier when you are able to talk to loved ones more frequently. Remember OPSEC. Do not discuss operationally sensitive information on the phone. Even veiled comments like “You won’t be hearing from me for the next couple of weeks” can tip the hand of your unit and give the enemy advanced notice of a potential operation, if a call is somehow intercepted.

Dealing with deployment using video calls

Family members who are fortunate to have the ability to video call have hit the mother lode. This gives separated loved ones not only the chance to hear their loved ones voices, but also the opportunity to see them.

Advances in video call technology in the past few years has made this a preferred way of dealing with deployment and keeping in touch. Many units have video call capability set up at camps so service members can call home and see their families.

How often and how long the conversations last is at the mercy of the command and what they have available to service members.

Remember OPSEC and if you have video calling to help in dealing with deployment, consider yourself lucky.

Three Military Flags That Civilians Display & What They Mean


Drive by any veteran’s house and odds are you will see the U.S. flag and likely a military service flag waving proudly from a porch. Since 9/11 there has been a resurgence amongst everyday Americans and they too fly their Old Glory, seemingly in defiance to those who attacked the nation on 9/11.

But there are also those homes that fly military flags that are unique. They are military flags that have special meaning for those who fly them and it is important to know what they mean in order to provide the proper level of respect.

Military flags for those at war

The Blue Star Banner is a small flag with a blue star that normally hangs on the interior of a window. Uniquely American, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Texas, New York, or California, the banners are all the same and they hang quietly, solemnly in house windows.

The Blue Star Banners can have one star or up to five and each blue star represents a loved one serving in the military during time of war. A home with a Blue Star Banner means that family is a Blue Star Family.

A Blue Star Family is the immediate family of a U.S. military member who is serving during war. They are authorized by the U.S. government to hang the Blue Star Banner from their residence for others to see.

The Blue Star Banner, also known as the Blue Star Service Flag, was designed in 1917 by businessman and National Guard officer Capt. Robert L. Queisser. He had two sons serving in World War I and Queisser wanted to show his pride and support.

His original and patented design for the military flags included a solitary blue star to indicate one family member was in military service and in conflict.

According to a U.S. Congressional resolution from 2013, the “…Blue Star Service Flag is the official banner authorized by the Department of Defense for display by families who have members serving in the United States Armed Forces during any period of war or armed hostilities the Nation may be engaged in for the duration of such hostilities.”

Immediate family members are permitted to hang the Blue Star Banner prominently in support of their loved ones. Those people include:

  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Stepparents
  • Stepchildren, stepsiblings, half-siblings
  • Adopted parents
  • Adopted children and adopted siblings of a U.S. service member.

The Blue Star Banner must have an 8.5-inches by 14 inches white field with at least one blue star, and no more than five, sewn onto a red banner. Some families flew the Blue Star Banner during the Global War on Terror even though their loved ones were not deployed. There is no stipulation that a service member must be deployed in order for a family to display the Blue Star Banner.

Military flags for families who have lost a loved one in war

The Gold Star Banner is displayed by a Gold Star Family. Gold Star Families are a military family which has lost a loved one during war. If a Blue Star Family has a loved one that dies while at war, that blue star becomes a gold star to show that the family’s loved one was killed.

If the family has multiple service members in the ranks, and one dies, then the highest star on the banner becomes gold and the remaining blue stars are aligned underneath the gold star.

The gold star was approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 at the urging of mothers who had family members killed in war. The approval meant that mothers who lost a child in the war could wear a gold star on the traditional black mourning armband. That eventually led to placing a Gold Star on the Blue Star Banner indicating that the service member had died.


In 1971, Mrs. Michael Hoff, the wife of a U.S. military officer listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War, developed the idea for a national flag to remind every American of the U.S. servicemembers whose fates were never accounted for during the war. The black and white image of a gaunt silhouette, a strand of barbed wire and an ominous watchtower was designed by Newt Heisley, a former World War II pilot. This is one of those military flags sometimes also flown at government facilities.

By the end of the Vietnam War, more than 2,500 servicemembers were listed by the Department of Defense as Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA). In 1979, as families of the missing pressed for full accountability, Congress and the president proclaimed the first National POW/MIA Recognition Day to acknowledge the families’ concerns and symbolize the steadfast resolve of the American people to never forget the men and women who gave up their freedom protecting ours.

Three years later, in 1982, the POW/MIA flag became the only of all other military flags to fly over the White House in Washington, D.C. On Aug. 10, 1990, Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, designating the POW/MIA flag: “The symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.”


Congress designated the third Friday of September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day and ordered prominent display of the POW/MIA flag on this day and several other national observances, including Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

The 1998 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 105- 85) mandates that on these national observances, POW/MIA military flags be flown over the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Korean and Vietnam Veterans War Memorials, the offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense and Veterans Affairs, offices of the Director of the Selective Service System, every major military installation (as directed by the Secretary of Defense), every post office and all Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and national cemeteries.

The act also directs VA medical centers to fly the POW/MIA flag on any day on which the flag of the United States is displayed. When displayed from a single flag pole, the POW/MIA flag should fly directly below, and be no larger than, the U.S. flag. If on separate poles, the U.S. flag should always be placed to the right of other flags.

On the six national observances for which Congress has ordered display of POW/ MIA military flags, the flags are flown immediately below or adjacent to the U.S. flag as second in order of precedence.

Combat Service Identification Badge: A Deep Dive


If you’ve spent time in the Army for a hot minute, you’ve likely been through a few uniform changes. The Army is like a fickle teenager on a Saturday night, unable to figure out what to wear, except the Army rummages through mountains of uniform options every few years. In the past 20 years there have been at least two physical training uniforms, three service uniforms, and at least five combat uniforms.

With every new uniform comes a plethora of new devices, badges or patches and instructions on how to wear them. Directives are also issued advising soldiers when to implement wear of the new uniforms and when to stop wearing the old items. It is enough to make a soldier’s head spin, and the Army goes rolling along.

Combat Service Identification Badge Intro

In 2008, the Army introduced the concept of the Combat Service Identification Badge to its formations and then a little more than 10 years ago, the U.S. Army officially introduced the Combat Service Identification Badge with little fanfare. In fact, in an Aug. 8, 2012, All-Army Activities (ALARACT) message (#202/2008 to be exact) they mentioned it when talking about the new blue Army Service Uniform (ASU).

“The wear policy for the blue ASU is intended to give soldiers what they have asked for in a service uniform while maintaining the traditions of our service. These changes include authorization of a Combat Service Identification Badge (CSIB) to recognize combat service…to honor the heritage and traditions of combat service, the CSIB is authorized for wear on the ASU and replicates wear of the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia-Former Wartime Service (SSIFWTS) patch.... Combat Service Identification Badge (new item to be worn when available) will be worn when available in place of the SSI-FWTS on the ASU. The CSIB will be worn center on the wearers right breast pocket of the ASU coat for male soldiers; female soldiers wear the CSIB on the right side parallel to the waistline on the ASU coat. The CSIB is ranked fifth in order of precedence below the Presidential, Vice Presidential, Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff identification badges. The CSIB can also be worn on the shirt when wearing the Class B versions of the ASU.”

It should be noted that the ASU will become an optional uniform in the near future, replaced by another uniform we will mention shortly. As mentioned earlier, the Army loves to make uniform changes.

Combat Service Identification Badge and the AGSU

Like all Army badges, the Combat Service Identification Badge was approved by the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry. When soldiers wore the green service uniform, the green Class A uniforms that were a part of the Army for more than 60 years, they showed their wartime service by wearing the SSI-FWTS patch sewn on the right sleeve of the green service uniform. It was a full-color patch worn on the green Class As.

With the introduction of the ASU, the Army created the Combat Service Identification Badge and did away with the SSI-FWTS patch. Soldiers who have deployed multiple times with multiple units have a choice of which Combat Service Identification Badge they wear. Given the amount of multiple deployments many soldiers have endured in the past 20 years, that likely makes many soldiers eligible to wear many different Combat Service Identification Badges.

The Combat Service Identification Badge cannot be worn on the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) or the discontinued Army green uniform. Today, soldiers continue to wear the subdued SSI-FWTS on the right sleeve of the ACU blouse to denote combat service. However, it should be noted that SSI-FWTS is an obsolete term. It has been replaced with Should Sleeve Insignia Military Operations in Hostile Conditions (SSI-MOHC). SSI-FWTS has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

The Combat Service Identification Badge is metal and enamel and they are roughly two inches in height. The Combat Service Identification Badge should not be confused with the previously mentioned shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI-MOHC) which is a patch worn on the right sleeve of Army uniforms like the ACU or the Army Green Service Uniform (AGSU). Referred to informally as “combat patches,” these are worn on the ACU and on the AGSU but are not worn on the ASU. Clear as mud? 

Similarly, the AGSU is not to be confused with the old green Class As which were phased out in 2015. To make it more confusing, the new AGSU is sometimes referred to as Army “Pinks and Greens,” a nickname reputationally branded on the uniform pants which sometimes had a pink hue when they were issued in the 1940s. The AGSU is a retro-style uniform brought back by the U.S. Army for many of the same reasons the blue ASUs were introduced—to honor the Army’s past and its heritage.

Combat Service Identification Badge Conclusion

Shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) are most commonly worn on the upper left sleeve of the ACU and the AGSU and they represent the soldier’s higher headquarters. They represent what unit or higher level formation the soldier currently belongs to. However, SSIs can be placed on other locations like on the side of a helmet. SSI are often designed using multiple colors. This is why the SSI on the ACU is subdued for use when a soldier is in combat conditions. Full color SSIs are used on the AGSU.

The AGSU will replace the ASU in a few years, but rest assured, and history supports this point, more uniform changes will likely come down. More information about current Army uniforms can be found on the Army’s uniform website.

Navy SEALs Gear No SEAL Leaves Behind


The U.S. Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams have experienced an extraordinary rise to fame and while the public might not know many of their individual names, their reputation as warriors precedes them around the world. Descendants of underwater demolition teams, they evolved from what the Navy once called “frogmen” into the special warfare bad asses they are today.

SEALs are almost synonymous with the Global War on Terror, they are, after all, the men who killed Osama Bin Laden the leader of Al Qaeda and one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks. They’ve got a lot of clout, and their seal of approval, pun intended, is valuable. Given the nature of their missions, if a SEAL is using certain tactical gear, it is definitely going to be sought after by other warriors, including the occasional geardo. Navy SEAL gear is something many are interested in.

Of course, each SEAL will have different preferences for the various types of equipment they use, including their weapons. That said, we’ve created a list of Navy SEAL gear not based on name brands, but based on what we’ve learned SEALs consider a must-have when they deploy.


Navy SEAL gear can’t be brought on deployment unless it is carried in something. Backpacks are essential Navy SEAL gear because backpacks enable a SEAL to transport gear into the area of operations.

Backpacks these days are often compartmentalized and customizable, so they can not only be used as a duffel bag, but they can be modified for operations. This is a far cry from the Alice packs that everyone knows and loves. Those are still awesome, but when the landscape requires versatility, the gear that is carried needs to be adaptable to the environment.


Ever seen pictures of SEALs during an operation? What they are wearing varies greatly depending on the mission. In some cases, they are wearing military uniforms, in other instances, they are wearing tactical clothing.

Given the physical nature of SEAL duty, comfort and ruggedness are important traits when it comes to Navy SEAL gear. Tactical clothing must be flexible, but durable, and it must have the ability to allow SEALs to stay cool or warm, depending on the climate.


Look at old SEAL pictures from the Vietnam War era and you will see SEALs sporting, what was considered then, state-of-the-art jungle boots. Regardless of its canvas-like ankle support, jungle boots weren’t ideal for the jungle and in fact many infantry soldiers experienced jungle rot and issues with their feet because the leather boots lacked breathability and would not dry quickly once wet.

In the late 1980s and heading into the 1990s, the U.S. military began experimenting with sneaker-like boots that enabled operators like the SEALs to move more quickly and comfortably during operations.

Today, the price tag on some of those tactical boots are well beyond what a name brand basketball shoe will cost you, but they are so worth it when you spend most of your day jumping, climbing, running, and moving to contact. Most of the boots on the market right now are breathable, fit properly (to avoid those blisters), have protective soles, and are durable. Taking care of your feet is critical.

Navy SEAL gear gloves

Anyone who has ever served a day in the field with a military unit knows that gloves are invaluable. Whether you are carrying or setting up equipment, using tools, or repairing something, gloves are an essential component of any kit. Gloves are also great for keeping your hands warm.

As a Navy SEAL, gloves are even more important than they are to a conventional troop. An operator’s gloves must protect the skin when a special warfare member rappels or fast ropes, but the gloves must also be agile enough to allow that same operator to use a weapon when needed. There is no time to pause, remove gloves, and then engage.

Navy SEAL gear must include gloves designed to protect the hand, but also allow for actions that require a lot of dexterity. Many of the gloves used by SEALs provide protection in case they are used in hand-to-hand combat and they have layers in the palms enabling them to grip knife blades with reduced risk of getting cut.


Speaking of cutting, what is a frogman without a knife? But gone are the days of a long knife strapped to the ankle of a diver. Today’s knives included in the Navy SEALs gear kit are multi-use and adaptable to a variety of functions.

Many of these knives enable SEALs not just to cut things, but they can saw, tighten, measure, adjust and perform a variety of functions as well. Of course, they can also be used as a weapon.

Knee and elbow pads in Navy SEAL gear

If you’ve done a hot minute in the infantry, you can appreciate that knee pads are an essential part of your kit. Rushing, assaulting, climbing all take a toll on your knees and elbows. Solid, impact-resistant, durable elbow and knee pads are essential Navy SEAL gear.

The biggest complaint from operators is that their knee pads are cumbersome and heavy. A primary complaint is that they do not stay in place, so when you are looking for pads, ensure you buy something that stays in place as you scoot and shoot.


No surprise here, but SEAL teams operate at night a lot of times so needless to say, a flashlight is a major part of any Navy SEAL gear kit. Like much of their other gear, the flashlights must be ultra-durable, lightweight, and provide a lot of illumination. They should also be attachable to vests and belts.

The old green, L-shaped flashlights of the military won’t work here, although they did back in the day. Special warfare operators need lightweight lights that are adaptable and can be used in tactical situations.

Today, there are a variety of flashlights that have adjustable illumination settings and some have varied functionality, like a strobe or signaling setting.

Hydration systems

All that bad assery makes a SEAL thirsty. Naturally after free falling behind enemy lines and hiking several miles to conduct an op, a Navy SEAL will reach for their old school canteens (which are still awesome for camping) that are a part of their Navy SEAL gear, right? Wrong.

Not long ago, U.S. military personnel lugged canteens on their web belts, extending their body’s profile by several inches on each hip and making traversing obstacles and terrain noisy and clunky. Enter the era of the hydration system.

Modern hydration systems are stand alone meaning a SEAL can just put them on their back and carry their water with them. However, a lot of these hydration systems can now be incorporated into modular backpack systems, making them a seamless and valuable component of Navy SEAL gear.

Tactical gear

Navy SEALs are a part of one of the most fluid and best choreographed tactical teams to ever walk the earth. They are individuals, but operate in teams as one.

At their heart, the spirit and commitment of each member of the SEAL team is critical to the overall success and survivability of the team. Because they are individuals, they will all have personal preferences and prefer varying Navy SEAL gear. Nonetheless, the diversity of the equipment Navy SEALs use does not impact their interoperability within the team and beyond.

Like any other person, SEALs will have a brand preference for whatever personal reason. However, this list we’ve compiled is more to state that the SEALs have a basic kit that they carry with them and regardless of the name brand, each of them feels these items are important if not mandatory as they prepare to deploy.

Naturally, the climate and mission will dictate much of what they pack and don’t pack. Watch caps, for example, might not be needed if they are deploying to an arid, hot, jungle climate. Similarly, cold weather clothing or jackets are not going to be needed in a hot weather environment.

This list is not all inclusive, but more of a baseline of basic Navy SEAL gear that is required for SEALs to perform their missions, regardless of where they are. Things like clothing and footwear are going to be required, but other items like pads, knives, and hydration systems are going to make rough missions, not easier, but at the very least manageable because they contribute to achieving the Navy SEAL mission no matter where they are located.