Friday, November 27, 2009

Cool uni-nerd tidbits from Charlie in Afghanistan

First of all, a belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here in the States. Hope yours was as good as mine, and that you're enjoying the second day of a very long weekend (or at least that your office is as quiet as mine today).

So Erin Simpson, formerly professor of COIN at MCU and contributor "Charlie" on Abu Muqawama, is now in Afghanistan doing COINish things. She has a new blog, "Charlie Simpson's War," which we've had listed over in the blogroll for a couple of weeks. It seems to me that it's intended primarily to be a sort of online diary of Erin's time in the 'Stan and is directed to friends and family more than war nerds like us, but it's still a fun read. (Ricks and Exum have already linked over there, so I don't feel badly about directing a bunch of yahoos to her blog.)

In a post from this week we learn about a couple of really interesting uniform details (well, interesting, at least, to weirdos like me who care about this stuff):

What really throws me is people in full Army or Marine utilities with “DOD Contractor” on their service tape. It’s like we’re so frustrated that the Taliban don’t wear uniforms that we put our civilians in them instead.

On the flip side, I saw an Army soldier wearing a 1st Marine Division patch on his right arm the other day. (In the Army, that’s where you put the patch for the unit you served in combat with.) I had never seen that before. Pretty freaking sweet.

I've never even heard of either of these things -- "DOD Contractor" nametapes or Marine combat patches on Army ACUs (or really Marine patches of any kind).

I'm was initially a little confused about the latter bit; why would a soldier have done a combat tour with the 1st MarDiv? After a little digging around on the internet, I found (via a militaria forum) this piece from a 2004 issue of Leatherneck magazine. Apparently a company of the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) was attached to the 1stMarDiv at Camp Blue Diamond in Iraq (as just one example).

Others on the militaria forum speculate that prior Marines who did combat time before switching over to the Army may wear Marine patches, though this isn't authorized. (Ironically, because the Marine Corps and Navy don't authorize combat patches for their personnel, the only way to earn the combat patch of a Marine unit is to be a member of the Army and get attached to it.) Anyway, really interesting.


  1. Too easy. Many soldiers who served in OIF2 with TF 2-7 Cav, TF 2-2 Infantry, or the various battalions attached to 2nd BCT 1st Cav wear 1st MARDIV combat patches - 2-7 and 2-2 fought in Falluja as part of Marine RCTs, and the Blackjack BCT was attached to the division. Also, I know soldiers from 2/2 ID, 2/28 ID, and 1/1 AD who proudly wear the combat patches of 1st or 2nd MARDIV or I or II MEF - these BCTs, along with 1/1 ID and 1/3 ID and a variety of separate battalions, fought in Ramadi under Marine command.

    As I understand it, the new combat patch rules put in place in March 2007 mean this sort of thing is no longer authorized for post-2007 deployments, but it's not retroactive, so soldiers whose battalions served in Marine RCTs or whose BCTs served in MNF-West before March 2007 are still allowed to wear Marine division or MEF combat patches.

  2. Cool, thanks for the info, Tintin. I know I can always count on you for U.S. order of battle stuff!

  3. I'm authorized to wear four different combat patches by the Army, including First and Second Marine Division because they owned the AO when I was there.

    Basically, any soldier who was in Anbar from 2004 - 2007 would have the same thing annotated in his or her records because his or her battalion (or BCT) would have operated under Marine leadership at some point.

    When I was a Marine, I wasn't allowed to wear any combat patches because the USMC doesn't have them. When I entered the USMC, they didn't even have name tapes (they arrived after the Gulf War when GEN Gray took a fancy to the Army's nametapes atop the Chocolate Chips).


  4. Belated Happy Thanksgiving to all you Inkspotters, too.

    *I read this post a couple of times, but understood, well, precious little of it....

  5. SNLII, can I ask which IA brigade you mentored? {Obviously 1st or 7th IAD.}

    Would love to touch base offline.

  6. I know this is old news, it's an old entry but I'm a combat Marine that later enlisted in the Army. I was not authorized to wear my 1st Mar Div patch by regulations but the unit I was with authorized it. I went in front of many boards and after the 1st one, my Sgt Major told me to wear it. I did proudly. I heard about it from others outside of my unit. I told them, even higher ranking soldiers, that I know the regulation but I am authorized to wear it. There wasn't a whole lot anyone could really say about it. Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in.

  7. James -- Interesting. Thanks for chiming in.