Members of the U.S. Army Task Force Medical 374, a role 3 medical hospital, participated in a Deployment Patch Ceremony last month. The informal event signifies that a brigade has been operating in a combat zone for a period greater than 30 days. The task force, which is operating in cooperation with other coalition forces in the region, is currently providing medical and operational support to Combined Joint Task Force -Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). The ceremony was led by Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Hopkins, who is currently serving an echelon above brigade.
"Today is a significant day for the soldiers of Task Force MED 374. You are now part of a time-honored tradition of displaying your service to the nation," said Hopkins. "It is an honor to wear the patch and to show others that you served in a hostile environment representing your country."
According to military records, the tradition of wearing the combat patch dates all the way back to World War I, when it was first proudly worn and displayed by U.S. Army's 81st Infantry Division. This group fought on the Western Europe front and pushed all the way to Germany. Soldiers were authorized to wear the shoulder sleeve insignia on their right shoulder following their service in France, which represented their time engaged in combat. This tradition continues in the U.S. military but is only practiced by the U.S. Army. No other services observe this tradition. The shoulder patch insignia worn by the TF MED 374 is the 330th brigade. While the patch has been worn by a host of different units this patch was first introduced on Nov. 30, 1944, by 30th Hospital Center. One month later, this unit was officially activated in the Philippines on Dec. 30, 1944, according to the brigade's website.
"It means something when you see someone wearing a combat patch," Sgt. Ben Yissael, aka "Sgt. Benny." It tells others that you have kind of been there and done that and you have some experience and know what is going on. I feel proud to be able to wear a patch now, but it's not what I thought it would mean. For me wearing the patch now, it makes me think of the sacrifices that are involved in being deployed. It's not just working in a combat zone. It's about all the sacrifices of being away from home, being away from friends and family, and not being able to do."
"When other Soldiers see you wearing the patch, they really look up to you," said Hopkins. "Out of all the soldiers in the military, there is actually only a small percentage that actually deploys to a combat zone."
This will be Hopkin's third deployment to a combat zone which includes tours to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.
According to statistics on the Department of Defense website, one percent of the U.S. population has served or is eligible for military service. Out of those eligible who serve, which is just under 1.9 million service members, less than 10 percent will ever be deployed to a combat zone. The majority of service members are assigned to military bases in the United States and abroad—but not a combat zone.
"Our Soldiers should be proud of this accomplishment and milestones in their career. To be part of this legacy and heritage of those who deployed before us, those on our current deployment, and those who will deploy after us—carrying on the significance and importance of wearing the patch," said Hopkins.
Of note, all Soldiers wear a patch on the left shoulder of their OCP (operational combat pattern) duty uniform to identify which unit they are assigned. The patch on the right represents the unit they were in combat with. Therefore, soldiers wearing the same patch on both shoulders signify that they were deployed with their assigned unit. Soldiers wearing a different patch on the right shoulder signify they were deployed to a combat zone with their previous unit. The combat patch is also a part of the army dress uniform and, instead of being worn on the right shoulder, is presented beneath the right breast pocket when wearing the dress uniform jacket or when wearing the dress shirt alone without the jacket, in accordance with AR 670-1.