Army combat patch regulations

Written by rob wagner
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Army combat patch regulations
(U.S. Army)

The Army Combat Patch, formally known as the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia--Former Wartime Service, or SSI-FWS, signifies that a soldier has participated in combat operations in a hostile environment. It is worn on the right shoulder of the uniform. It is awarded to soldiers who are deployed in combat zones for 30 days or more.


Army regulations governing the award of the Army Combat Patch follow strict criteria that can change over time--depending on the circumstances of deployment, the duration of hostilities and the theatre of operations.

Army combat patch regulations
Maj. Robert Martin helps Maj. Edwin Clark place his patch for operations in Afghanistan.

Combat Zone Defined

The Secretary of the Army is required to declare a specific area a hostile environment in which an Army unit is assigned, or Congress must declare war with the unit directly participating in combat or supporting combat operations against the enemy.

Army combat patch regulations
Capt. Bertalina Villar awards Sgt. Myron Moore his patch for Iraq service.

Length of Combat

Typically military combat operations must last a minimum of 30 days, but exceptions can be made based on the recommendation of the command flag officers or generals to the Army Chief of Staff.

Army combat patch regulations
Sgt. William Filyaw is awarded his combat patch.

Major Conflicts

The Secretary of the Army has determined that the patch can be awarded to servicepersons participating in World War II from December 7, 1941, to September 2, 1946, and the Korean War from June 27, 1950, to July 27, 1954. Soldiers who received a Purple Heart or Combat Infantryman Badge, or who received at least one month's hostile pay while in a hostile zone in Korea from April 1, 1968, to August 31, 1973, also are eligible.


The Vietnam War is the longest period and covers service in four countries in which a solider is eligible to receive the patch. Soldiers serving in combat zones in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia between July 1, 1958, and March 28, 1973, are entitled to the patch.

Army combat patch regulations
The combat theatre of operations has expanded considerably today.

Smaller Conflicts

Nontraditional conflicts, brief combat operations or serving in an area that presents imminent danger also qualify soldiers for the patch. Those operations include the invasion of Grenada on the Green and Carriacou islands from October 24 to November 21, 1983, and the invasion of Panama from December 20, 1989, to January 31, 1990. Units supporting Operation Earnest Will between July 27, 1987, and August 1, 1990, and received imminent danger pay are eligible for the patch.

Regulation Changes

Since the end of World War II, combat patches were awarded only to soldiers who participated in combat operations while attached to brigades, divisions, the corps level or at Army command. Because today's deployments are different, soldiers serving in companies, battalions or combat brigade teams, or who were attached to a larger unit became eligible in 2007.

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