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 images rather than words are traditionally used for the symbolism of the shoulder patch worn to identify a soldier's unit. 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 Expert Tab is unique in that while it is 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. --The Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab and Sapper Tab are all considered group 4 skill badges while the President's Hundred Tab is defined as a marksmanship badge/award.-- Only three skill tabs may be worn at one time.
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.
National Guard - Governor's Twenty, Twelve, and Ten
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 guardsman, or the Governor's Dozen Tab, for Arizona guardsman. 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, as well as local Army Reserve units, that compete at the Iowa Governor's 10 Shooting Competition are awarded the Governor's Ten 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 in the National Guard under federal status (Title 10 of the U.S. Code) are not authorized to wear these awards until they return to Title 32 status.
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 was the only other unit whose 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 IBCT is now aligned under the 10th Mountain Division and 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 Brigades (SFABs), was authorized a unit SSI that incorporates a unique tab that was initially embroidered with the words "ADVISE - ASSIST." Shortly after the SFAB's SSI was authorized for wear, the tab was changed to read "COMBAT ADVISOR". The SFAB SSI was changed again sometime before the 1st SFAB's official activation ceremony and their unit tab now reads simply "ADVISOR".
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.
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.
Unofficial and obsolete
Several tabs are widely worn unofficially by members of the U.S. Army. Often these tabs were worn on the underside of pocket flaps so as not to violate uniform regulations. Such tabs also appear on stickers, shirts, hats, etc. that soldiers would wear with civilian attire. These include tabs containing the words "SNIPER", "AIR ASSAULT", "FISTER", "SCOUT", and "RECON" or "RECONDO." The "SAPPER" tab was one of these unofficial tabs until 2004 when it became an official special skill badge/tab of the U.S. Army.
The Jungle Expert Patch was often worn by graduates of the Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC) at Fort Sherman until the school became inactive in 1999. The patch may have been authorized for wear by soldiers assigned to U.S. Army South who graduate from JOTC but the patch was never recognized Army-wide; much like the quasi-official status the Cavalry Stetson enjoys today.
In 2014, the JOTC was reopened in Hawaii and the Jungle Expert Patch 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. Other graduates of the course receive the tab as a souvenir.
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 under the SSI of units assigned to USARAK while operating in the State of Alaska.
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, believed to be the first and last approved Air Assault Tab in the U.S. Army.
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