In the United States Army "tabs" are patches displaying a word or words that are worn above the shoulder patch that identifies the unit to which the soldier belongs.
Tabs are valued uniquely in the US 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, and lightning, only soldiers who have completed special forces training will have been awarded and wear an additional patch containing the words "SPECIAL FORCES" (i.e. the Special Forces Tab).
Some tabs are awarded to recognize an individual soldier's skill or marksmanship and are worn by a soldier permanently. These tabs are also considered 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. 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 US Army National Guard can only be worn by soldiers while they are on state-level orders.
Individual skill/marksmanship tabs
There are currently four permanent individual skill/marksmanship tabs authorized for wear by the U.S. Army. In order of seniority, they are the President's Hundred Tab, the Special Forces Tab, the Ranger Tab, and the Sapper Tab. Only three skill tabs may be worn at one time. At this point in the military there are no recorded individuals who have earned all four skill/marksmanship tabs.
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.
The President's Hundred Tab is worn 1/2 inch below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve of the male and female Army green uniform coats. The tab is available in a subdued version for wear on the Battle Dress Uniform (BDUs). The tab is covered in paragraph 29-16c, AR 670-1 and paragraph 8-53, AR 600-8-22. A full-color embroidered tab of yellow 4¼ inches (10.80 cm) long and 5/8 inch (1.59 cm) high, with the word "President's Hundred" centered in 1/4 inch (.64 cm) high green letters. The metal replica is 2 inches (5.08 cm) wide.
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 example DUI, or misconduct as a Special Forces Soldier.
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 3¼ inches 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 below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve of the Army green coat. The subdued tab is worn 1/2 inch 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 2⅜ inches (6.03 cm) long, 11/16 inch (1.75 cm) wide, with a 1/8 inch (.32 cm) yellow border and the word "RANGER" inscribed in yellow letters 5/16 inch (.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 rovoked by the Engineer Commanding Officer of Ft. Leonardwood, MO for misconduct, or not upholding the standard as an Engineer. Any requests will be processed thru USASC.
The full color tab is worn 1/2 inch below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve of the Army green coat. The subdued tab is worn 1/2 inch 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 2⅜ inches (6.03 cm) long, 11/16 inch (1.75 cm) wide, with a 1/8 inch (.32 cm) red border and the word "SAPPER" inscribed in white letters 5/16 inch (.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.
National Guard - Governor's Twenty
A state level marksmanship tab whose specific award regulations vary state-by-state. For example, in Texas the tab is awarded to the top 20 shooters in the state. Each year 8 are awarded for Rifle, 8 are awarded for pistol, two are awarded for Sniper, and two are awarded for Machine gun. Participants compete against all the other soldiers who have already received the award, so in Texas there might only be one or two new recipients each year. This is not a permanent award, it is earned annually.
The Airborne Tab is a part of the shoulder sleeve patch of U.S. Airborne units. Airborne 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 shoulder sleeve insignia. The tabs are 2½ inches (6.35 cm) long and 11/16 inch (1.75 cm) wide. The letters are 5/16 inch (.79 cm) high.
The Mountain Tab is a part of the shoulder sleeve patch of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain). The 10th Mountain Division retains the Mountain Tab for historical purposes, but is actually organized as a light infantry division. The newly designated 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), is the only U.S. Army conventional brigade that specializes in mountain warfare. Mountain warfare training is a basic part of Ranger and Special Forces training within the U.S. Army.
The Honor Guard Tab is a part of the shoulder sleeve patch of the 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and other specially selected units. 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. On an ultramarine blue arc tab 3⅞ inches (9.84 cm) long and 11/16 inch (1.75 cm) high overall, the designation "HONOR GUARD" in white letters 5/16 inch (.79 cm) high. The subdued tab is identical, except the background is olive drab and the letters are in black.
On 16 March 1965, the DCSPER approved a tab for wear by selected Honor Guards. Proposed designs were submitted on 26 March 1965. The DCSPER approved the above design on 19 April 1965. A subdued tab is also authorized.
On 31 December 2012, the DCSPER approved another Honor Guard Tab for wear by select Army National Guard Honor Guard units. The new tab is an ultramarine blue embroidered tab with the inscription “ARNG HONOR GUARD” in goldenlight 5/16 inch (.79 cm) letters, edged with a 1/8 inch (.32 cm) goldenlight border.
Obsolete and Unofficial
Several tabs are widely worn unofficially by members of the US Army. Often these tabs are worn on the underside of pocket flaps so as not to violate uniform regulations. Such tabs also appear on stickers, shirts, hats, etc. These include tabs containing the words "SNIPER", "AIR ASSAULT", "FISTER", "SCOUT", and "RECON". The "SAPPER" tab was an unofficial tab until 2004 when it became an official army tab.
The "JUNGLE EXPERT" tab was often worn by graduates of the Jungle Operations Training Center until the school became inactive in 1999. The tab may have been official until 1982. The tab was never recognized army wide, but enjoyed a quasi-official status much like that of the Cavalry Stetson. That is, the tab was often authorized to be worn by graduates of the school by local commanders and by members of the United States Army South specifically.
The "RECONDO" tab was often worn by graduates of a reconnaissance and infantry skills school that was terminated in the 1970s.
- Army Regulation 600-8-22 paragraph 8-49: Special Forces Tab - official information.
- Pentagon Institute of Heraldry's Sapper Tab Page
- About.com Sapper Tab Article
- U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum: Special Forces Tab
- Army Regulation 600-8-22, Section 8-49.
- Sapper leader course pamphlet section III, US Army
- Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia US Army
- The U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry
- Honor Guard Tab for 1st Battalion, 3d Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, accessed 6 Oct 2011
- Honor Guard Tab for Selected Units, U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, accessed 6 Oct 2011
- Army National Guard Honor Guard Tab, U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, last accessed 2 September 2013
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