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.

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