Distinctive unit insignia

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A soldier inventories distinctive unit insignia devices at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs.

A distinctive unit insignia (DUI) is a metal heraldic device worn by soldiers in the United States Army. The DUI design is derived from the coat of arms authorized for a unit. DUIs may also be called "distinctive insignia" (DI), a "crest" or a "unit crest" by soldiers or collectors. The term "crest" however, in addition to being incorrect, may be misleading, as a DUI is an insignia in its own right rather than a heraldic crest. The term "crest" properly refers to the portion of an achievement of arms which stands atop the helmet over the shield of arms. (Nevertheless, a minority of DUIs happen to depict crests, such as those of many National Guard state area commands.) The U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry is responsible for the design, development and authorization of all DUIs.


Pre-World War I Insignia. Distinctive ornamentation of a design desired by the organization was authorized for wear on the Mess Jacket uniform by designated organizations (staff corps, departments, corps of artillery, and infantry and cavalry regiments) per General Order 132 dated December 31, 1902. The distinctive ornamentation was described later as coats of arms, pins and devices. The authority continued until omitted in the Army uniform regulation dated December 26, 1911.

Distinctive unit insignia. Circular 161 dated 29 April 1920 authorized the use of the regimental coat of arms or badge as approved by the War Department for wear on the collar of the white uniform and the lapels of the mess jacket. Circular 244, 1921 states: "It has been approved, in principle, that regiments of the Regular Army and National Guard may wear distinctive badges or trimmings on their uniforms as a means of promoting esprit de corps and keeping alive historical traditions. Various organizations which carry colors or standards have generally submitted coats of arms having certain historical significance. As fast as approved these coats of arms will for the basis for regimental colors or standards which will eventually replace the present regimental colors or standards when these wear out. The use of these coats of arms as collar ornaments in lieu of the insignia of corps, departments, or arms of service would be an example of distinctive badge to be worn by the regiment." `The first unit to wear this insignia was the 51st Artillery which received approval for wear on March 18, 1922. It was designed by Master Gunner and Master Sergeant Edward C. Kuhn, the artist responsible for creating all authorized coats of arms and distinctive unit insignia at the time.

Present. Up until 1965, only regiments and separate battalions were authorized a coat of arms and distinctive units insignia. Now all major commands, field hospitals, corps, logistics commands and certain other units – groups, for example – are authorized distinctive unit insignia.


The unit commanding officer requests approval of a distinctive unit insignia. A check is made by the Institute of Heraldry to determine the availability of a current copy of the lineage and honor statement and/or history for the unit. If such is not available, one is requested from the United States Army Center of Military History. The unit's history is reviewed to determine if the unit may inherit a previously approved distinctive unit insignia or if a new design should be made.[1]

If a new design is to be made, careful study is made of the history and battle honors of the unit. The most important decorations, honors, combat service and missions are represented in the design of the insignia. Sometimes two centuries of history are condensed into symbolism for distinctive unit insignia.

A proposed design is created and sent to the commanding officer for review and concurrence. Upon concurrence by the unit commander an official letter of approval of the distinctive unit insignia is sent to the unit.

Manufacturing drawings and specifications are sent to a certified manufacturer which provides samples of the finished distinctive unit insignia to the Institute of Heraldry for approval. Once approved the manufacturer may produce this insignia. Each manufacturer has an identifying hallmark assigned by the Institute of Heraldry which is applied to the back of the insignia.

The shield shape design is used to identify color bearing organizations (for example, regiments and battalions). Other design patterns will be used for non-color bearing units. The design is based on war service, assignment or accomplishments. Cartoon characters or logos are not authorized as design elements. Symbols are to represent mission rather than actual equipment as equipment becomes out-of-date. Unit designations, numerals, letters, geographical outlines, reproductions of other insignia will not be included as part of the design.

Once a distinctive unit insignia is approved it is changed only when a heraldic or historical error is found. A modification of unit designation or mission does not permit a change to the DUI design. As a result, DUIs tend to further reflect the historic roots of a unit. For example, many older Military Intelligence battalions' DUIs feature teal blue rather than oriental blue, having been designed for Army Security Agency units which were designated as branch-immaterial. Likewise, those that began as Signals units typically feature orange. The 211th Military Police Battalion provides an example of a unit changing branches without changing insignia, having been assigned to six different branches during its existence. Color-bearing battalions and regiments continue to have insignia without the shield shape if they were formerly non-color-bearing units when the insignia was approved; this includes not only former groups and brigades that were down-sized, but as well flexible battalions (i.e., battalions composed of variable attached numbered companies, rather than fixed-TOE battalions composed of lettered companies which are organic to the battalion) which gained coats of arms and thus colors in the late 1990s, long after their DUIs were already approved.


  • Paragraph 28-22 of Army Regulation 670-1 authorizes the following types of units to wear a distinctive unit insignia:
  • Distinctive unit insignia (DUI) of a design approved by The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army, are authorized and prescribed for wear on the service uniforms of personnel in the following echelons.
  1. Major Command (MACOM): one design for each MACOM.
  2. Field armies: one design for each field Army.
  3. Regional readiness commands (RRC).
  4. Corps: one design for each corps.
  5. Division: one design for each division.
  6. Separate brigades: one design for each separate TOE brigade.
  7. Numbered group: one design for each TOE numbered group.
  8. Color-bearing regiments; training support battalions aligned to color-bearing regiments; and separate battalions, fixed type: one design for each regiment and separate TOE battalion.
  9. Battalions, flexible: one design for each TOE battalion.
  10. Hospitals: one design for each TOE hospital.
  11. U.S. Army service schools established by the Department of the Army: one design for each service school.
  12. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command training centers: one design for each training center.
  13. U.S. Army medical centers: one design for each center.
  14. U.S. Army medical department activities: one design for each activity.
  15. U.S. Army hospital centers: one design for each center.
  16. U.S. Army dental activities (DENTAC): one design for each activity.
  17. Army National Guard Total Army Service Schools (TASS): one design for all TASS activities.
  18. U.S. Army Reserve schools: one design for all USAR schools.
  19. Field operating agencies: one design for each activity based on the following criteria.
    1. An identifiable command structure.
    2. A valid justification in terms of unit mission, enhancement of unit morale, and degree of unit permanency.
    3. At least 250 military personnel assigned to the activity.
  20. Other organizations: one design for each organization, except U.S. Army garrison (active and reserve), meeting the following criteria.
    1. An identifiable command structure.
    2. A valid justification in terms of unit mission, enhancement of unit morale, and degree of unit permanency.
    3. At least 500 military personnel assigned to the organization.
  21. Other.
    1. Organizations not in the categories listed above, which have a DUI by virtue of previous HQDA authority, are permitted to retain that DUI if manufactured and worn by members of the subject organization. In each case, such insignia is authorized for wear only after The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army, has determined the propriety, and granted approval of the insignia.
    2. Units not authorized a DUI in their own right will wear the DUI of the command to which assigned. Those units not authorized a DUI in their own right, and not assigned to a higher echelon that is authorized a DUI, may, with the approval of the Army commander concerned, wear the DUI of the Army area in which located. Personnel participating in the AGR and ROTC simultaneous membership programs will wear the DUI of the commands, units, and agencies to which attached.
    3. Personnel assigned to a joint command, DOD, or Federal agency will wear the DUI designated for joint or DOD agencies.
  22. Provisional units. The authorization of a DUI will not be granted for provisional units.


The distinctive unit insignia of the unit to which the soldier is assigned are worn as follows:[2]

On the beret flash of enlisted personnel
On the breast patch of the black pullover sweater
On the shoulder loops of the Army Green Uniform jacket and for enlisted personnel on the Army Service Uniform jacket (when not worn in dress configuration).
Above the nameplate on the Class A and Class B service uniforms, when the DUI is worn in lieu of a Regimental Distinctive Insignia (RDI). At the Soldier's option the RDI, DUI of their current assignment or the DUI of a previous assignment may be worn above the nameplate. If worn, the RDI for whole branch Regiments (MP, Signal, Quartermaster) must be that of the Soldier's current career field.[3]

By whom worn

When a DUI is authorized, all personnel assigned to the organization wear the insignia, except general officers, the Sergeant Major of the Army and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman. General officers wear their Regimental Distinctive Insignia (RDI) on the black pullover sweater. The Sergeant Major of the Army and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman (if a soldier) wear, respectively, the SMA and SEAC collar insignia in lieu of the DUI on their pullover sweaters, garrison caps and berets, but their epaulets are bare. Reserve component units with WARTRACE alignments may wear the DUI of the Active unit to which they are aligned, in lieu of their peacetime DUI, provided major RSC or state TAG, and MACOM commanders agree on such wear. When personnel transfer to a new organization they wear the DUI of their new unit.

Where worn

The design of the DUI is metal, or metal and enamel, only. U.S. Army personnel wear the insignia on the epaulets of the Army green uniform coat and the chest pad of the black pullover sweater. Enlisted personnel only wear the DUI on the epaulets of the Army Service Uniform and the beret.

How worn

Enlisted personnel wear the DUI on the green service uniform coat and the Army Service Uniform coat, centered on the shoulder loops an equal distance from the outside shoulder seam to the outside edge of the button, with the base of the insignia toward the outside shoulder seam. Enlisted personnel are not authorized to wear the DUI on the enlisted green dress uniform or the Army Dress Blue Uniform (worn with white shirt and necktie/neck tab). Officers wear the DUI centered on the shoulder loops, an equal distance from the inside edge of their grade insignia to the outside edge of the button, with the base of the insignia toward the outside shoulder seam. Officers and Enlisted personnel wear the DUI on the black pad of the Army pullover sweater, centered directly above the nameplate. Officers and Enlisted personnel may wear their applicable RDI on the Army Green Uniform coat, the Army Service Uniform coat, or the black pullover sweater if they are not authorized a DUI. Enlisted personnel wear the DUI centered on the flash of the beret, or their RDI when a DUI is not authorized.

Units not listed in AR 670-1 (other than USAG) may request a DUI be authorized if the unit has at least 500 military assigned (250 for DA operating agencies). The Army element of joint commands may be authorized a DUI if the Army element has at least 500 Army personnel.[4]


Alphabetical Units

Air Defense Artillery




Battlefield Surveillance



Civil Affairs




Field Artillery


Maneuver Enhancement

Medical and Veterinary

Military Intelligence

Military Police



Regional Support Group


Special Troops Battalions



See also


  1. Arthur DuBois, Heraldic Branch O.Q.M.G., The Quartermaster Review – September–October 1954. Found at US Army Quartermaster Foundation website.
  2. Guide to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia (PDF). U.S. Army. 2 December 2014. Department of the Army Pamphlet 670-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. http://www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/p670_1.pdf DA PAM 670-1 dated 1 JUL 2015
  4. "FAQs ~ Organizational Insignia". The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Sawicki, James A. Infantry Regiments of the U.S. Army. Wyvern Publications, 1981. ISBN 0-9602404-3-8.
  6. "Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, US Army Element". Institute of Heraldry. Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

"Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia" (PDF). Army Publishing Directorate. United States Army. 15 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

  • The Institute of Heraldry, Heraldic Services Handbook, 1997
  • Heralding Devices, Soldiers Magazine, January 1985

External links