17 March 2010

Reading the Uniform, Part 2: Flags

While taking a tour of our nation's airports while wearing the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) recently, I was asked by one probably-just-friendly gentleman, "Where are you all going?" I was in Atlanta at the time, but the "you all" wasn't properly contracted. That made it sound a little accusatory.

After I got over being defensive, I realized the man was wondering about the handful of soldiers that had just deplaned, myself included. None of us had been seated together, but the man might not have realized that.

If each of the soldiers had been wearing the same unit patch--that's the patch on the left shoulder--there would have been more reason to deduce that we were from the same unit. That's kind of an advanced "how to read a uniform" technique, however--and hard to do with multiple soldiers from a distance.

My own guess was that the other soldiers were coming home from or heading back to Iraq or Afghanistan, while I was only heading home after training. It wasn't until later, however, that I figured out why I'd made that assumption: They'd been wearing a different flag than I.

My right-shoulder American flag patch was full-color--red, white, and blue with amber piping--while the others had been wearing the "subdued" version. (They were probably also wearing an infrared-readable version that is visible using night-vision gear, but that's another topic.) To better match the camouflage, unit and other patches are rendered in black and green (and sometimes brown) for use on the ACU. That's why the "Red Bull" patch of the 34th Infantry Division appears to be a "Green Bull," when it's camouflaged.

Which reminds me: Happy St. Patrick's Day!


  1. Infra-read??!! - Cool! (excuse me while I fossick up a black light)


  2. Dude, you come into Atlanta with anykind of layover and you don't tell me, you will have more that irate Afghans to about. I would love to buy you a beer or coffee or something. Just saying....

  3. @ Coffeypot: Dude, you are so right! After spending a couple of days and nights on stand-by, however, I was just happy to get on a flight. My connections were pretty screwy--I'd thought I was heading through Detroit, but then got rerouted to Atlanta. Of course, if one had to be "stuck" in an airport for more than 8 hours, I think Atlanta might be my current No. 1 choice. They have EVERYTHING there! It almost made flying fun again ...

    Next time I go to Fort Gordon for training, I'll be sure to march up a side-trip to Atlanta, too!

  4. Ft Fordon, Ft Stewart, Ft Benning any of them are withing a few driving hours of Atlanta. Name the date...


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