Evolution of the NCO Insignia

Categories: Evolution


The NCO insignia evolved through the years from a variety of shapes, styles, and colors to the chevrons worn today. Sometimes changes in uniform style and colors dictated changes in the style and color of the chevrons. The history of the insignia is complex and often confusing. In some cases, no official records survived to document the use of certain insignia. Many times, the vagueness of official records resulted in conflicting interpretations by individual NCOs, which led to a variety of insignia designs for the same official rank.

In still other cases, NCOs wore unauthorized grade insignia, leaving little if any documentation.

The Year – 1775

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army did not have consistent uniforms, and the problem of distinguishing rank was often difficult. To solve this problem, in July 1775, General George Washington ordered designations of grade for officers and noncommissioned officers. All sergeants were to be distinguished by a red epaulette or a strip of red cloth sewn on the right shoulder and corporals by a green epaulette or strip.

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Epaulettes continued to distinguish NCOs for years to come. In 1779, Washington authorized sergeants to wear two silk epaulettes, and corporals would wear one from worsted (a smooth compact yarn from long wool fibers used especially for firm napless fabrics) on the right shoulder. White epaulettes designated infantry NCOs, yellow the artillery, and blue the cavalry.

The Year – 1821

When regulations in 1821 directed the wearing of uniforms with cloth wings (wool worsted wings trimmed in the branch color on, which generally fell over the shoulders), the Army had to find another way to distinguish rank besides epaulettes.

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It adopted a stripe, or chevron, for officers and NCOs to wear on the arm of the uniform, with the points up. Colors identified the two branches: yellow for artillery and white for infantry. When the Army discontinued the use of wings in 1832, epaulettes and cuff slash flaps replaced chevrons. One year later, however, Congress authorized a regiment of dragoons with a distinctive uniform. Because the dragoon uniforms used metal shoulder scales to protect against saber cuts, the Army authorized yellow chevrons, with points down to distinguish noncommissioned officer rank. In 1845, one battery of horse artillery received dragoon-type uniforms with NCOs wearing red chevrons. During the Mexican War, the Army authorized yellow or white chevrons with points up for all branches to wear on fatigue uniforms.

The Years – 1851 and 1873

In 1851, a new uniform established a system of branch colors and chevrons reverted to points down. By 1872, 11 grades of NCO existed in the Army, seven with distinctive chevrons.

The Year – 1902

As the Army became more specialized, it established many new ranks. In 1902, when the Army retained 20 distinctive NCO chevrons, the insignia returned to the point-up position.

The Year – 1902

During World War I, the Army established temporary branches of service and authorized new chevrons for each pay grade in the new system. Eventually, it instituted over a hundred distinctive chevrons, including ones for the tank corps, aviation service, and two different transportation services. The cost and confusion became too much, and in 1920, Congress ended the practice of using the chevron to show a specific job or position among enlisted men

The Year – 1920

The Army consolidated all enlisted ranks into seven pay grades, five of which were for noncommissioned officers. During World War II, the Army differentiated between technical and combat grades, although the three technician grades adopted were dropped by the postwar Army.

The Year – 1948

For a time, the Army reduced the size of its chevrons. To save material, the War Department introduced a smaller, two-inch wide chevron in 1948. With the smaller size came changes in color to distinguish between combat (blue on a gold background) and noncombat (gold on a blue background) insignia. Another major change in 1948 was the substitution of the staff sergeant’s three bars and a rocker for the three-stripe chevron worn by sergeants since 1833.

The Year – 1958

In June 1958, the Army adopted the basic chevron system in use today. The seven pay grades expanded to nine. One new chevron appeared (the three stripes with three rockers and a star for sergeant major), and one chevron returned (the simple three stripes denoting sergeant). The addition of the three-stripe sergeant bumped each chevron up one grade with the result that the ranks of sergeant, staff sergeant, and sergeant first class wore one rocker less. Corporals, sergeants, and staff sergeants are normally squad, section and team leaders, and are critical links in the NCO support channel. These NCOs live and work with their Soldiers every day, and are responsible for their health, welfare, and safety. Squad, section and team leaders ensure their Soldiers meet standards in personal appearance, and teach them to maintain and account for their individual and unit equipment and property. Squad, section and team leaders teach everything from the making of sound and timely decisions and physical training to ethics and values. Corporals and sergeants are the basic trainer of today’s Soldiers. loading images…

Corporals, sergeants, and staff sergeants are normally squad, section and team leaders, and are critical links in the NCO support channel. These NCOs live and work with their Soldiers every day, and are responsible for their health, welfare, and safety. Squad, section and team leaders ensure their Soldiers meet standards in personal appearance, and teach them to maintain and account for their individual and unit equipment and property. Squad, section and team leaders teach everything from the making of sound and timely decisions and physical training to ethics and values. Corporals and sergeants are the basic trainer of today’s Soldiers. CORPORAL (CPL) The base of the noncommissioned officer (NCO) ranks, CPLs serve as team leaders of the smallest Army units. Like SGTs, they are responsible for individual training, personal appearance and cleanliness of Soldiers. SERGEANT (SGT) Typically commands a team (1 to 4 Soldiers).

Considered to have the greatest impact on Soldiers because SGTs oversee them in their daily tasks. In short, SGTs set the example and the standard for Privates to look up to, and live up to. STAFF SERGEANT (SSG) Commands a squad (9 to 10 Soldiers). Often has one or more SGTs under their leadership. Responsible for developing, maintaining and utilizing the full range of his Soldiers’ potential. The first sergeant (1SG) is the senior NCO in companies, batteries, and troops. The position of 1SG is similar to that of the Command Sergeant Major or CSM in importance, responsibility, and prestige. As far back as the Revolutionary War period, first sergeants have enforced discipline, fostered loyalty and commitment in their Soldiers, maintained duty rosters and made morning reports to their company commanders. The 1SG position requires extraordinary leadership and professional competence on a daily basis, because the first sergeant is responsible for training and ensuring for the health and welfare of the Soldiers and their families.

First sergeants hold formations, instruct platoon sergeants, and assist the commander in daily unit operations. Though 1SGs supervise routine administrative duties, their principle duty is training Soldiers. The CSM, 1SG, and other key NCOs must understand the organization’s collective, mission-essential tasks during METL-based training. Through NCO development programs, performance counseling and other guidance, 1SGs are the Army’s most important mentors in developing subordinate NCOs. The master sergeant (MSG) serves as the principle NCO in staff elements at battalion or higher levels. Although not charged with the enormous leadership responsibilities of the 1SG, the MSG dispatches leadership and executes other duties with the same professionalism as the 1SG. Duty Positions and Ranks (continued)

There’s only one Sergeant Major of the Army. This rank is the epitome of what it means to be a sergeant and oversees all noncommissioned officers. The SMA serves as the senior enlisted advisor and consultant to the Chief of Staff of the Army (a four-star general).

The Sergeant Major of the Army

In 1964 and again in 1965, the U.S. Army Pacific Command representative at the annual Personnel Sergeants Major conference recommended establishing a Sergeant Major of the Army position. After, the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for personnel initiated a study. In 1957, the Marines had established a Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps position, and the enlisted assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army, Sergeant Major George Loikow, had recommended to General Harold K. Johnson, Chief of Staff of the Army, that the Army should follow suit. Johnson believed that “If we were going to talk about the noncommissioned officers being the backbone of the Army, there ought to be established a position that this was in fact the case.”

In May of 1966, Johnson notified the field commanders of the major commands that he intended to appoint a Sergeant Major of the Army. He solicited their nominations asking that it be a personal recommendation and should not be considered a contest or retirement-type assignment. Johnson listed seven duties and functions he expected the SMA to perform, including service as personal advisor and assistant to the chief of staff on those matters pertaining to enlisted men. Johnson whittled the 4,700 candidates down to 21 nominees and selected SGM William O. Wooldridge who was serving in Vietnam as the 1st Infantry Division sergeant major.

A highly decorated veteran of World War II and Vietnam, Wooldridge had served the majority of his career as an infantryman, with 16 years spent overseas. Wooldridge was quickly dispatched to the Pentagon, and Johnson signed General Orders #29 officially establishing the position on July 4, 1966, with tenure to correspond with the Chief of Staff of the Army. The Sergeant Major of the Army was to wear a pair of these insignias in place of the branch and U.S. insignia normally worn by enlisted men. It would not be until the fall of 1978 that the Army would adopt a distinctive insignia of rank for the office. Since that July day 46 years ago, 14 senior noncommissioned officers have held the top position within the Army Introduction to Joint operations

Develop an understanding of joint operations
“Enlisted Professional Military Education Policy”
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 1805.01A “Enlisted Professional Military Education Policy” was signed on 01 October 2010. The purpose of this instruction is to circulate the policies, procedures, objectives and responsibilities for enlisted professional military education (EPME) and enlisted joint professional military education (EJPME). Within the policy, the director wrote the following:

“Protecting our Nation, preventing future conflicts, and prevailing against adversaries require that the US Armed Forces sustain and extend their qualitative advantage against a very diverse set of threats and adversary capabilities. Maintaining our qualitative advantage begins with improving education programs across the Services. Our overarching goal is to educate and train the right person for the right task at the right time. We cannot wait until an individual is placed into a leadership position before providing the proper education and training. This is especially true today; the War on Terrorism requires [enlisted leaders] from all Services to work in the joint environment more often than they have ever before. It is imperative that we expand “jointness” to all appropriate levels in our Armed Forces.” – William E. Gortney, VADM, USN, Director, Joint Staff

National Military Organization and Capabilities

Joint Publication 3-0, Joint Operations, is the keystone document of the joint operations series. It provides the doctrinal foundation and fundamental principles that guide the Armed Forces of the United States in joint operations across the range of military operations. However, before you can understand joint operations, you need to understand the structure of the Department of Defense. We will begin with the joint staff and then look at each military service branch to see how their specific roles and missions fit into the scope of joint operations. Organization of the joint chiefs of staff

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Evolution of the NCO Insignia. (2016, Sep 25). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/evolution-of-the-nco-insignia-essay

Evolution of the NCO Insignia

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