Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in The Havok Journal on 19 June, 2015. Given the recent rumors about the spread of the practice of prohibiting the wear of badges, tabs, and “combat patches” during field training in order to not make anyone “feel left out,” we thought it was time to dust this one off and give it another go. What do you think about the practice of restricting Soldiers from wearing the badges, tabs, and patches they have earned? Let us know in the comments section.
The Army Times recently published a story about a brigade commander in the 4th Infantry Division, Colonel David Hodne, who told his soldiers that they would not wear their “pins and patches” on their uniform while in the field. For the uninitiated, this means that the soldiers were told to wear only their name tapes, rank, and current unit patch during field training; while leaving behind their right-sleeve “combat patches,” special skill badges, and tabs for wear in their garrison uniform.
This resulted in an uproar from those still in uniform as well as many veterans that are vehemently against the commanders decision, and making their voices heard on all social media outlets. This also resulted in a collective eye-roll from some soldiers and veterans, to include myself, as well as the entire United States Marine Corps.
Col. Hodne did not strip these soldiers of their right to wear what they earned; he simply said to keep the shiny stuff put away until you are done getting dirty while training in the field. This makes complete sense to me, and was the standard during my time in service. We knew who had what because they wore it in garrison. We also didn’t need a badge or patch to let us know which soldiers knew what they were doing and had experience. Their rank, as well as their technical and tactical proficiency in the field (or lack there of) told us all we needed to know about any given soldier.
If your patches and badges are so important to you that you feel the need to wear all of them, all the time… then you probably aren’t worried about more important issues, and likely need to reassess how you appropriate your energy.
You might even need to take a look in the mirror and be honest about where your ego is at, and where it is derived from. There is more to you as a soldier than the badges on your chest or the patch on your right sleeve.
I’m very proud of my time in service, my uniform, and the things I earned. But you need to give yourself a little bit of credit and realize that what is on your uniform doesn’t make you valuable. Rather, it’s you and your experience that resulted in the award of your various uniform accouterments that make you valuable.
As I read through the various comments surrounding the articles on Col. Hodne’s decision, there seemed to be a reoccurring theme. That theme being many thought his decision was an attempt to make him feel better about himself, that his subordinates had more “bling” than him. Comparisons were made to when Gen. Shinseki decided to give the Rangers’ black beret away to the entire Army. My only response to this is that a bit of research goes a long way before making this accusation.
I don’t know Col. Hodne personally, but I do know that he spent much of his career in the nations premiere special operations direct action raid force, the storied 75th Ranger Regiment. He even served as the 2nd Ranger Battalion commander from 2010-2012, a time during which the 75th Ranger Regiment saw the heaviest losses in it’s history.
I also know, thanks to a simple Google search, that Col. Hodne has earned a Legion of Merit, four Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, the Southwest Asia Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, the GWOT Expeditionary Medal with Arrowhead, a Ranger Tab, both the Combat and Expert Infantryman’s Badges, the Master Parachutist Badge with Bronze Star, the Air Assault Badge, and a host of foreign jump wings.
On top of all of that, he rates multiple combat patches, to include the Ranger Scroll, and some rather impressive unit awards like the Valorous Unit Award, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and a Meritorious Unit Commendation. Suffice it to say that I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone in his command that is more decorated than him. So we can effectively rule out “lack of bling” as a reason for his decision.
So what was his reason behind the decision to not wear “pins ‘n’ patches” in the field? According to Col. Hodne, “It’s about the collective, it’s not about the individual,” Hodne told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “Character counts more than your resume,” he said. “It’s heart more than what you did five or six years ago.” That all makes sense to me, but I also think it has a little bit to do with one of four charters that he is expected to uphold as a Ranger.
Wickham’s Charter, written by former Chief of Staff Gen. John A. Wickham, hold’s Rangers to a fairly clear standard:
After service in the Regiment-return these men to line units of the Army with the Ranger philosophy and standards. Rangers will lead the way in developing tactics, training techniques, and doctrine for the Army’s Light infantry formations.”
Col. Hodne brought the standard operating procedure of the 75th Ranger Regiment, wearing near-sterile field uniforms, to his new brigade in the “Big” Army. He saw that it worked well as a Ranger, and as obligated by the charter, brought it to his new unit in hopes of it working there as well. Just like other commanders have done in the past, implementing Ranger inventions such as the Modern Army Combatives Program, Family Readiness Group, and the Combat Life Saver program across the Army.
I’m not one to tell anyone how they should or should not feel about anything. But, in my humble opinion, it seems to me that there are a variety of other issues to be outraged about like the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the sexual harassment epidemic, hemorrhaging of combat experienced leaders out of the Army, and pay and benefits repeatedly being put on the chopping block.
Col. Hodne is an experienced soldier and officer, and I think we should all give him the benefit of the doubt and let him lead his troops how he see’s fit. Besides, the sterile field uniforms have been working pretty well for the Army’s special operations units and the entire U.S. Marine Corps – and it seems like they do just fine on the field of battle.