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BCT banishes combat patches, badges to boost morale

You earn it, you keep it, you wear it. That's how many soldiers value theirepitomize their time in the Army, with the insignia and combat patches, andbadges and insignia that display who they are and what they've donemark their training, success and their strife.And it promotes a little healthy competition.

But while in the field, the commander of Fort Carson's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team wants soldiers' uniforms to be bare to the bone, only showcasing last name, rank, American flag, U.S. Army tape and the unit's 4th Infantry Division insignia.

The purpose is to promote a unified Army culture, Col. David Hodne recently told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Hodne also wants to boost morale by making newcomers feel welcome.

"While we are all proud of our individual accomplishments, when training in the field, we're building a team and do not need to focus, or be distracted, by our own or others' individual accomplishments," said Maj. Kevin Boyd, spokesman for the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Hodne could not be reached for further comment.

"As time goes on and the Army's transitioned somewhat, we find more and more of our soldiers without that combat experience," Boyd told Military Times. "And this really assists them in integrating into the unit."

Boyd said that in garrison, soldiers can pin back on anything they want.

And for the unit, Boyd said, tThe modification has allowed for their Stryker brigade to train more efficiently, Boyd said.

— which transitioned from an armored brigade — to accomplish their necessary training in 15 months time instead of the estimated 35 months it takes to be deployment ready.

But the move has some soldiers riled up.

"Combat patches aren't worn to say 'look I've deployed' or 'I love this unit'," wrote Tom Simpkins on the Army Times Facebook page in an answer to a request for commentcall out. "I wear mine as a scar, I wear it for every single person who deployed with me and every minute of rough times we went through."

"It seems ridiculous, especially in an infantry or other combat MOSs," Joseph Crescitelli wrote on Facebookchimed in. "It lets newer guys (such as myself) know who to look to for guidance for first person experience as well as demands that extra bit of respect."

According to Army Regulation 670-1, Authorization 22-2, soldiers are authorized to wear their awards if not prohibited by the commander, said Paul Prince, spokesman for Manpower & Reserve Affairs.

Prince said the uniform changeup is most commonly done during training, but the Headquarters, Department of the Army, does not track unit's local uniform policies or wear guidance.

But is the trend becoming a new norm for Army units of the future?

Boyd said he and Hodne had similar experiences previously, such as the 75th Ranger Regiment not wearing any significant insignia while in the field. "We've just enhanced that for the entire brigade here," Boyd said of the Carson brigade, which has more than 4,000 soldiers unit at Carson.

Some soldiers say wrote that they are currently or have experienced a no-patch rule before, both overseas and stateside.

Christopher Parker said that when he switched over from cavalry scout to infantry, "all prior service and active duty soldiers were ordered by the CSM to remove their combat patches."

"At the end of the course at graduation, I then realized that I had more deployments and awards then my [drill sergeants]. Maybe that was the point. I don't know, but I feel by removing my patches somewhat dishonored my friends who had [passed] on my deployments," Parker said.

"Recently at my new unit, we were required to remove them while in the field," Simpkins wrotecontinued. "It was one of the biggest insults so far in my Army career, and I know I wasn't the only one to think so. I bear my scar with pride, and refuse to cover it up to appeal to anyone."

But others said it could be a good lifesaving move for while being the 'newbie' in an all-experienced unit.

One soldier, not identified, wrote in an email to Military Times that after graduating basic combat training, he wished a no-combat patch rule could have been implemented during his first unit assignment because his lack of patches was the reason he stood out.

"NCO's would walk in the dayroom as the whole company was there and would say, 'Anyone without a combat patch start pushing' and I would be the ONLY guy getting smoked in front of everyone else for an hour," he said. "This was the start of hazing over the next few months that led to overuse injuries, assault, and sexual assault ... and almost death."

How other leadership will promote — or dismiss — these adjustments remains to be seen, but for now, tThe brigade commander wants all of his soldiers to fight as one, and foster a spirit of camaraderie.

"We have a lot more support soldiers than what a normal brigade does, and this has allowed them to integrate a lot better," Boyd said. "It doesn't really matter if you're a truck driver or an infantry soldier or a cav scout, here you're a team."

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