The Purpose of Military ID Cards & Dog Tags

Written by eva talent
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The Purpose of Military ID Cards & Dog Tags
Military dog tags are a required part of military uniforms. (dog tags image by pearlguy from

Military identification cards and dog tags are generally required components of military uniforms. Military ID cards are required to travel on and off military installations, access commissaries and Post Exchanges and serve as an indication of a service member's rank, branch of service and the Geneva Convention Category he falls under. Dog tags (also called identification tags) serve to convey a service member's name, Social Security number, blood type and religious preference in case the service member becomes a casualty.

Military ID Cards and Dog Tags in Military Regulations

Army regulation 670-1 requires that soldiers carry a military-issued identification card at all times, whether in or out of uniform. It also mandates that soldiers travelling or living overseas wear dog tags at all times (even in civilian clothing), and states that every soldier in uniform must include them as part of their duty uniforms.

Military ID Cards in Garrison

Military ID cards grant service members access to military installations; service members who do not have a military ID card are turned away at the gate and denied entry. Military ID cards are required to prove a service member is authorised to shop at commissaries and Post Exchange stores on military posts. When asked by a superior to provide a military ID card, all service members must comply or face punitive action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Military ID cards are also used as Common Access Cards (CAC), which can be inserted into military computers to validate identity.

Military ID Cards in War

According to the Geneva Convention, service members are granted different types of treatment as prisoners of war. Military ID cards are issued with each service member's Geneva Convention category; if a service member is taken as a prisoner of war, his category defines his standards of behaviour and responsibilities to himself and other service members. Geneva Convention categories range from I to IV and are based on a service member's rank.

Dog Tags in Garrison

Soldiers conducting routine daily activities may be at risk of becoming a casualty; if a soldier loses consciousness or is unable to communicate, dog tags are read to gain pertinent information. Dog tags contain information that can notify responders whether the service member has allergies, indicates his blood type and displays his name and Social Security number so the service member can be properly identified. If a soldier's prognosis is dire, a chaplain specialising in the soldier's religious preference (as noted on his dog tags) is contacted.

Dog Tags in War

Battlefield casualties who cannot be recognised visually are identified by their dog tags. Additionally, soldiers needing immediate blood transfusions can be treated using the blood type information stamped on dog tags.


Contrary to popular belief, standard-length dog tag chains do not contain 365 beads so that prisoners of war can track the number of days they have been held captive. The size of the beads often varies, and usually the number of beads on a chain is approximately 250. However, prisoners of war can easily remove one bead per day to accurately track the length of their captivity.

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