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Army Combat Patch – Shoulder Sleeve Insignia SSI-FWTS 2023

Army Combat Patch
Army Combat Patch

In today’s post, I will discuss the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (SSI), a former wartime service known as the Army Combat Patch. 

The Army Combat Patch, also known as the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia-Former Wartime Service (SSI-FWTS), is a distinctive emblem worn on the right shoulder of the US Army uniform by soldiers who have been deployed to a combat zone.

An SSI is a patch soldiers wear on their left shoulder to identify their unit. Contact your unit if you need clarification on what SSI you should wear.

The SSI FWTS, commonly known as the Combat Patch, is what soldiers wear on their right shoulders, underneath the US flag on the combat uniform. The easiest way to know what combat patch you’re authorized to wear is to look for it in your iPerms.

  • If a soldier wears it on their left sleeve, that’s their unit patch. If they wear it on the right sleeve, that’s the combat patch. 

The Army Combat Patch is worn on the right sleeve and underneath the US flag on the combat uniform.

Below is an extract from the AR 670-01 regulation on Army Combat Patch

(3) Soldiers of all Army components (Regular, ARNG, and USAR) who deploy during periods of service designated for wear of the SSI–MOHC are authorized to wear a SSI–MOHC. There are no time-in-theater requirements for authorization to wear the SSI–MOHC. Soldiers may not earn more than one SSI–MOHC during the same deployment.

Wearing the Army Combat Patch

Now, I know that at some point, units will issue certificates identifying what combat patches their soldiers are authorized to wear. However, since the changes in regulation several years ago, I have yet to see certificates being produced for soldiers to place in their permanent records. 

To simplify things, if you’re deployed as a company or higher element, the patch you wear as your combat patch should be the same as the one you wear as your unit patch.

You are only authorized to wear a combat patch when the Department of the Army has identified your deployment area as a hostile environment and you receive a tax exemption.

Members of a deployed unit will wear the Army combat patch of their deployed unit when the deployed unit is a company or higher, and they will wear the patch of the lowest echelon. 

Members who are attached to another unit as part of a deployment will wear that organization’s patch. 

Remember that at all times, a soldier will wear the patch of the lowest echelon company or higher in deployed status. 

Soldiers will only earn one combat patch per deployment. And traditionally, the combat patch they are authorized to wear is for the first unit they were attached to or belonged to during the deployment cycle.

Can I still get a combat patch in the Army? 

With the United States military pulling out of Afghanistan, some people want to know if they can still join the Army and possibly earn an Army combat patch.

When talking about potentially earning a combat patch in the United States Army around 2005–2015, it seemed like every soldier in the Army had a combat patch on. That was because the USA was very active in Iraq and Afghanistan, which made that possible. 

Things have since died down, even more so now that we’ve pulled all of the US military out of Afghanistan.

It raises the question some people want to know: Can I still possibly go to a combat zone, get an Army combat patch, and get that combat pay? 

Yes, it’s possible to still earn an Army Combat Patch based on places classified as combat zones. Places still classified as combat zones by the IRS are as follows:

  • Sinai Peninsula
  • Afghanistan Area
    • Afghanistan
    • Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan (as of September 19, 2001)
    • Philippines (from January 9, 2002 through September 30, 2015)
    • Djibouti (as of July 1, 2002)
    • Yemen (as of April 10, 2002)
    • Somalia and Syria (as of January 1, 2004)
  • Kosovo Area
    • The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia/Montenegro)
    • Albania
    • Kosovo
    • The Adriatic Sea
    • The Lonian Sea – north of the 39th parallel
  • Arabian Peninsula Area
    • The Persian Gulf
    • The Red Sea
    • The Gulf of Oman
    • The part of the Arabian Sea that is north of 10 degrees north latitude and west of 68 degrees east longitude
    • The Gulf of Aden
    • The total land areas of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates
    • Jordan (as of March 19, 2003)
    • Lebanon (as of February 12, 2015)
    • Turkey east of 33.51 degrees east longitude (as of September 19, 2016)

Deployment Experience

The main reason we are here as soldiers is to deploy. It’s to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. 

Being in the Army, it doesn’t matter what your MOS is; you can be a support MOS, you can be on the front lines, you can be a 92 golf cook, you can be a quartermaster, you can be an 11 x-ray fighting right in front, and it doesn’t matter. 

There’s a big or small chance that you will fight, and that’s the reality of being in the Army. You might go to a combat zone.

Do I respect soldiers with an Army combat patch? 

Yeah, definitely 100%, because, in my opinion, they have done their part. 

  • They have gone overseas and fought the war against terror. 
  • They have proven to be more experienced than many of these soldiers who haven’t been deployed. 
  • They have that combat experience under their belt; they have something to prove.

Has every soldier who has a combat patch seen combat action?

The answer is no. Just because you went to Afghanistan or Iraq doesn’t mean you’ve seen action.

For all I know, and from what I’ve heard and what I was told by my leaders who have deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, some people stay in the FOB and don’t go out of the wire. 

They didn’t see anything, but they were there overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan as support, but they never went out and never saw any action.

To be a great leader in the Army, do you have to have a combat patch? 

The answer is yes and no. 

Yes, because you can use the experience and knowledge you’ve gained from deployment—all these things you can’t learn while in garrison. 

You have that under your belt and can share it with your soldiers yet to be deployed. 

No, because not everyone with a combat patch is a great leader. 

My personal experience is proof of that. I’ve had many leaders who have deployed multiple times in different countries and conflicts. 

Most of them are outstanding leaders, but there are a few of them who are terrible leaders. 

They don’t know how to take care of their soldiers; they don’t know how to treat other people; they don’t know how to manage.

Yes, they might be good in the combat zone, but they’re not effective in garrison, from what I’ve experienced.

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia SSI-FWTS Summary

Table: Army Combat Patch Overview

NameShoulder Sleeve Insignia (SSI)
Commonly Known AsCombat Patch
PurposeTo signify that a soldier has served in a combat zone
Location on UniformWorn on the right sleeve, below the US flag
EligibilityDeployed to a combat zone and served there for a certain amount of time
Patch DesignTypically, the patch is the insignia of the unit the soldier deployed with
Time FrameMore common during 2005-2015 due to active engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan
Current SituationFewer soldiers with combat patches as combat operations have decreased
SignificanceRepresents a soldier’s experience in a combat zone and can be a point of pride and respect among service members

George N.