Tabs of the United States Army
In the United States Army, "tabs" are small cloth and/or metal arches displaying a word or words signifying a special skill that are worn on U.S. Army uniforms. On the Army Combat Uniform, the tabs are worn above a unit's shoulder patch and are used to identify a unit's or a soldier's special skill(s) or are worn on shoulder patches as part of a unit's unique heritage. Individual tabs are also worn as small metal arches above or below medals or ribbons on the Army Service Uniform.
Tabs are valued uniquely in the U.S. Army because unlike medals - which are only worn on a soldier's garrison or dress uniform - tabs are worn on a soldier's combat uniform. Moreover, tabs are worn above a soldier's shoulder unit insignia patch which rarely include words as a part of their symbolism. It is only to identify an individual soldier's or a whole unit's special skill that an additional shoulder patch is worn that uses words rather than images to symbolize this skill. For example, while any member of a special forces unit will wear the unit identifying patch that includes an arrowhead, sword, lightning, and Airborne Tab, only soldiers who have completed special forces training will have been awarded and wear an additional tab containing the words "SPECIAL FORCES" (i.e. the Special Forces Tab).
Some tabs are awarded to recognize an individual soldier's combat related skills or marksmanship and are worn by a soldier permanently. These tabs are also considered special skill badges and have metal equivalents that are worn on the soldier's chest if their uniform does not have a place for shoulder patches (e.g. the Army Service Uniform). Other tabs recognize a whole unit's special skill and are considered to be part of a specific unit's shoulder sleeve patch and are worn by a soldier only while they belong to that unit. The Jungle and Arctic Tabs are unique in that while they are awarded to recognize an individual soldier's skill, it is only worn by soldiers while they belong to certain units. Similarly, tabs awarded at the state level by the U.S. Army National Guard can only be worn by soldiers while they are on state-level orders.
There are currently four permanent individual skill/marksmanship tabs authorized for wear by the U.S. Army. In order of precedence, they are the Special Forces Tab, the Ranger Tab, the Sapper Tab, and the President's Hundred Tab. Only three skill tabs may be worn at one time. A soldier wearing three tabs is said to have achieved the "tower of power" or a "triple canopy" in military slang. Prior to the creation of the "Sapper" tab, this required a soldier to earn both a Special Forces and Ranger tab as well as serve in a unit with an Airborne or Mountain tab as part of its shoulder sleeve insignia. This slang provides is the source for the name of the prominent private security company Triple Canopy.
The Special Forces Tab is a service school qualification tab of the United States Army, awarded to any soldier completing either the Special Forces Qualification Course, or the Special Forces Detachment Officer Qualification Course. Soldiers who are awarded the Special Forces Tab are authorized to wear it for the remainder of their military careers, even when not serving in a Special Forces command. The Special Forces Tab can be revoked by the Chain of Command for significant violations of conduct considered contrary to the high standards expected of a Special Forces soldier (for example, DUI or other forms of misconduct).
The Special Forces Tab was created in 1983 and is an embroidered quadrant patch worn on the upper left sleeve of a military uniform. The cloth tab is 3 7⁄4 inches (12 cm) wide and is teal blue with yellow embroidered letters.
The Ranger Tab is a qualification tab authorized upon completion of the U.S. Army's Ranger School by a member of the U.S. military, civilian personnel, or non-U.S. military personnel. The Ranger Tab was approved by the Chief of Staff, Army, on 30 October 1950. The Ranger Tab can be revoked IAW AR 600-8-22, Section 1-31, para. 13.
The full color tab is worn 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve of the Army green coat. The subdued tab is worn 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve of utility uniforms, field jackets and the desert battle dress uniform (DBDU). The full color tab is 2 3⁄8 inches (6.0 cm) long, 11⁄16 inch (1.7 cm) wide, with a 1⁄8 inch (0.32 cm) yellow border and the word "RANGER" inscribed in yellow letters 5⁄16 inch (0.79 cm) high. The subdued tab is identical, except the background is olive drab and the word "RANGER" is in black letters.
The Sapper Tab is a qualification tab which is authorized for graduates of the U.S. Army's Sapper School. The Sapper Tab was approved by the Chief of Staff, Army, on 28 June 2004. The Sapper tab can be revoked by the Engineer Commanding Officer of Ft. Leonard Wood, MO for misconduct, or not upholding the standard as an Engineer. Any requests will be processed through USASC.
The full color tab is worn 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve of the Army green coat. The subdued tab is worn 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve of utility uniforms, field jackets and the desert battle dress uniform (DBDU). The full color tab is 2 3⁄8 inches (6.0 cm) long, 11⁄16 inch (1.7 cm) wide, with a 1⁄8 inch (0.32 cm) red border and the word "SAPPER" inscribed in white letters 5⁄16 inch (0.79 cm) high. The woodland subdued tab is identical, except the background is olive drab and the word "SAPPER" is in black letters and the desert subdued tab has a khaki background with the word "SAPPER" in spice brown letters.
The President's Hundred Tab is a marksmanship tab which is authorized for soldiers who qualify among the top 100 scoring competitors in the President's Match held annually at the National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. This is a permanent award which will stay with the individual; there is no annual requirement to maintain the President's Hundred Tab. Most competitors will compete each year to ensure that less qualified individuals do not receive the tab.
On 27 May 1958, The National Rifle Association requested the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel's approval of a tab for presentation to each member of the "President's Hundred." NRA's plan was to award the cloth tab together with a metal tab during the 1958 National Matches. The cloth tab was of high level interest and approved for wear on the uniform on 3 March 1958.
A full-color embroidered tab of yellow 4 1⁄4 inches (11 cm) long and 5⁄8 inch (1.6 cm) high, with the word "President's Hundred" centered in 1⁄4 inch (0.64 cm) high green letters. The metal replica is 2 inches (5.1 cm) wide.
Jungle (U.S. Army Pacific)
The Jungle Expert Badge was often worn by graduates of the Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC) at Fort Sherman until the school became inactive in 1999. The badge was authorized for wear by soldiers assigned to U.S. Army South who graduate from JOTC but the badge was never recognized Army-wide.
In 2014, the JOTC was reopened in Hawaii and the Jungle Expert Badge was revitalized as a tab which is authorized for wear by soldiers who complete the course and are assigned to the U.S. Army Pacific area of responsibility. However the revitalized tab now simply reads 'Jungle' instead of 'Jungle Expert'. Other graduates of the course receive the tab as a souvenir.
Arctic (U.S. Army Alaska)
The Arctic Tab is an individual skill tab earned by those who graduate from the Cold Weather Orientation Course or Cold Weather Leadership Course held at the Northern Warfare Training Center. The tab is authorized by U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK) for wear on combat uniforms above the SSI of units assigned to USARAK while operating in the State of Alaska.
Governor's "#" (National Guard)
The Governor's Twenty Tab is a state-level National Guard award, created in 1968, that is awarded to the top 20 shooters in a state. However, award criteria vary from state-to-state. For example, within the Texas Military Forces, only eight guardsmen are presented this award for rifle, eight for pistol, two for sniper, and two for machine gun each year. Texas guardsmen compete against other Texas guardsman who have already received the award; thus, there may be one or two new recipients of this award each year. As of July 2014, 14 states have authorized the awarding of the Governor's Twenty Tab.
In the Missouri National Guard and Arizona National Guard, the top twelve guardsman selected to represent their state at the Winston P. Wilson Rifle and Pistol Championships are awarded the Governor's Twelve Tab (for Missouri) or Governor's Dozen Tab (for Arizona). These tabs are worn on the upper-left sleeve of the Army Combat Uniform below individual tabs and above unit and honor guard tabs. The Missouri National Guard also award a Governor's Twelve Ribbon that accompanies the tab which is worn on dress uniforms; any guardsman who earns the award more than once wear Hawthorn Cluster Devices on top of the ribbon.
In the Iowa National Guard, the top ten rifle and/or pistol shooters from the state's Army and Air Force guard units that compete at the Iowa Governor's 10 Shooting Competition are awarded the Governor's Ten ("X") Tab. Prior to 2008, the Governor's Ten Tab was awarded to the top five pistol shooters and top five rifle shooters. Today, the rifle and pistol scores are combined so only the best 10 overall shooters earn the tab.
Because these awards are state-level awards, soldiers and airmen under Title 32 status (state control) are authorized to wear them; soldiers and airmen under Title 10 status (federal control) are not.
Ranger Challenge (Army ROTC)
The Ranger Challenge Tab is the only United States Department of the Army individual qualification tab awarded exclusively to Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadets. This award is presented annually to cadets who compete in regional ROTC Ranger Challenge competitions. The Raider Tab is the Rangers Challenge Tab equivalent for the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC).
A shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) is an embroidered patch worn on some uniforms of the United States Army that identifies the wearer's major formation. Unit tabs are an integral part of the SSI and are never worn separately. Soldiers are only authorized to wear the tab while assigned to the organization that prescribes wearing the SSI with the tab.
The Airborne Tab is a part of the SSI of certain airborne and air assault units. Airborne and air assault forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and dropped into battle. Thus, they can be placed behind enemy lines and have an ability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning. The tab is worn immediately above and touching the SSI. The tabs are 2 1⁄2 inches (6.4 cm) long and 11⁄16 inch (1.7 cm) wide. The letters are 5⁄16 inch (0.79 cm) high.
The Mountain Tab is a part of the SSI of the 10th Mountain Division, the Northern Warfare Training Center, and the Army National Guard Regional Training Institute's cadre assigned to the Army Mountain Warfare School. The 10th Mountain Division retains the Mountain Tab for historical purposes but is actually organized as a light infantry division. For a period of time, the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) SSI was authorized to incorporate the Mountain Tab, due to the nature of that Vermont Army National Guard brigade's training. Under the US Army's "associated units" program, the 86th has been aligned under the 10th Mountain Division and now wear that historic division's SSI.
Although they do not wear the Mountain Tab, mountain warfare training is a basic component of the US Army's Ranger School and each US Army Special Forces Group maintain detachments that specialize in mountain warfare.
One of the US Army's newest units, the Security Force Assistance Command, wear a tab as part of their unit's SSI. Early versions of the SSI incorporated a tab embroidered with the words "ADVISE - ASSIST." Shortly after, the SSI tab was changed to read "COMBAT ADVISOR". The command's official SSI was authorized in December 2017 and the tab was again changed to "ADVISOR" and is authorized for wear by all security force assistance units.
The Honor Guard Tab is a part of the SSI of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and other selected units with ceremonial duties. The tab had been worn by the Honor Guard Company of the 1st Battle Group, 3d Infantry (The Old Guard) since early 1950. It was officially approved for wear by the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPER) on 14 October 1959. The 3rd Infantry's tab is ultramarine blue 3 7⁄8 inches (9.8 cm) long and 11⁄16 inch (1.7 cm) high, the designation "HONOR GUARD" in white letters 5⁄16 inch (0.79 cm) high. The subdued tab is identical, except the background is olive drab and the letters are black.
On 16 March 1965, the DCSPER approved a white tab with ultramarine blue lettering for wear by select Honor Guard units throughout the U.S. Army. Proposed designs were submitted on 26 March 1965 and the color reversed version of The Old Guard's tab was approved on 19 April 1965. A subdued tab is also authorized. Additionally, there are other select Army and Army National Guard units that have their own distinctive Honor Guard Tabs that are not defined in general Army uniform regulations, such as the United Nations Command Honor Guard that wear a red (or scarlet) tab with white letters on the left shoulder of their service dress uniform.
On 31 December 2012, the DCSPER approved another Honor Guard Tab for wear by select Army National Guard units. The new tab is an ultramarine blue embroidered tab with the inscription "ARNG HONOR GUARD" in gold 5⁄16 inch (0.79 cm) letters, edged with a 1⁄8 inch (0.32 cm) gold border.
Similar to the Honor Guard Tab for select units, the Band Tab is worn by an Army band within a given unit. The exception to this is the U.S. Army Field Band Tab which is an integral part of that unit's SSI, just like the Mountain Tab worn by the 10th Mountain Division. Each Army unit that has a band can have its own unique Band Tab, designed by the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, and can only be worn with that unit's SSI. Once a band member leaves the band to join another element of the same unit, they can no longer wear the Band Tab but continue to wear their unit's SSI. Subdued versions of each unit's Band Tab is authorized for wear with their unit's subdued SSI.
Combined Division (2nd ID)
On 29 December 2015, the U.S. Army approved the wear of a black tab by soldiers assigned to Headquarters, 2nd Infantry Division (ID). This black tab, worn immediately above the 2nd ID's SSI, is embroidered with white English and Korean letters spelling out the words "Combined Division." The tab is used to signify the joint nature of the new combined headquarters made up of units from the U.S. Army's 2nd ID and the Republic of Korea Army's (ROKA) 8th ID, established on 3 June 2015. The tab may only be worn by U.S. Army 2nd ID and ROKA 8th ID headquarters soldiers while serving within the geographical boundaries and territorial waters of the Republic of Korea.
The Pershing Tab was worn as part of the shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) for units supporting the Pershing missile system. From 1970 to 1971 the 56th Artillery Brigade wore the SSI of the Seventh Army with the Pershing tab. In 1971 the 56th FA received their own SSI that included the Pershing tab, which continued through redesignation as the 56th Field Artillery Command in 1986. The 3rd Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment wore the Pershing tab with the SSI of III Corps from 1971 to 1981, then with that of the 214th Field Artillery Brigade when it had a SSI created in 1981. The Pershing tab was discontinued with the deactivation of units following the elimination of the Pershing missile system in 1991.
In 1963, the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) was established—formed from reactivated elements of the 11th Airborne Division—to explore the theory and practicality of helicopter assault tactics, and was inactivated two years later when testing was completed and the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was formed. Although this test unit wore the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 11th Airborne Division, they replaced their Airborne Tab with a unique Air Assault Tab in February 1963, believed to be the first and last approved Air Assault Tab in the U.S. Army.
Army Air Forces' Command Identification
With the expansion of the U.S. Army Air Forces (AAF) in World War II, the AAF SSI became one of the most widely worn shoulder insignias of the war. Given the AAF SSI did not allow someone to determine which AAF command the wearer belonged, on 28 July 1945 the U.S. Army approved the use of Command Identification Tabs—also known as an arc—to help identify an AAF solder's command. These Command Identification Tabs were worn above the AAF SSI as an arc that followed the curvature of the SSI and was embroidered with the name of the AAF command in the same blue and gold colors as the SSI. The use of these Command Identification Tabs continued until the introduction of the U.S. Air Force blue uniform.
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