Shoulder sleeve insignia are often designed with intricate designs including bright colors, when created. Because these bright colors and designs risk standing out when a soldier is in combat or in hiding, the shoulder sleeve insignia in its color form is commonly only worn on the dress uniform, when a soldier is not in combat. For combat uniforms, "subdued" versions have been created for wear on the battlefield.
"Full color" SSI are only worn on the Service Green Uniform. Formerly, full color SSI were also worn on the "full color" (white letters on black or dark blue material) Military Police brassard, worn by MPs while wearing the green "Class A" service uniform or while wearing subdued field uniforms (BDU or DCU) in a garrison environment.
The subdued version of the SSI created for the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) features patches that are primarily olive, dark brown and black, to match the BDU. In general, this version is obsolete because the Army phased out the BDU uniform in favor of the Army Combat Uniform (ACU). A few examples still remain, as older accessories, such as BDU winter weather jackets and coats are still in use by some units, such as ROTC formations. These jackets still use the subdued BDU SSI.
The subdued version created for the Desert Camouflage Uniform is primarily tan and "Spice" brown, to match the DCU uniform design. This version is also obsolete, as the Army phased out DCUs in favor of ACUs.
The subdued version created for the Army Combat Uniform is the version widely used in the field today. Since the Army-wide adoption of the ACU, SSI for the ACU have been developed. These SSI are primarily foliage green, light brown, and black, though a few patches also feature red and maroon colors for some details. Unlike previous patches, the ACU SSI are velcro, designed to attach to the velcro pockets on the shoulder of the uniform, instead of being sewn on. This makes them easier to remove and replace.
Since the development of the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern (OCP) uniform (commonly known as MultiCam as it is derived from Crye Precision's proprietary pattern) new SSI have been procured where the "Foliage" green of the ACU SSI is replaced by "Bagby" green. Velcro remains the method for attaching the SSI to the uniform.
Read more about this topic: Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
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“The assumption must be that those who can see value only in tradition, or versions of it, deny mans ability to adapt to changing circumstances.”
—Stephen Bayley (b. 1951)