Three Types Of American Flag Patches

There are five branches of the United States Armed Forces. This includes the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. Each of these branches requires its personnel to wear the American flag on the right sleeve of the service uniform. The wearing of dress uniforms and physical training uniforms do not require it. For military service members assigned to garrison duty or deployed in a combat zone, the wearing of American flag patches is a must unless otherwise ordered by their commanding officer. Generally, there are rules that must be followed when wearing American flag patches although there are no federal laws that govern it. However, some states have their own laws regarding its use.

American flag patches are worn by members of the Armed Forces, law enforcement officers and members of other such organizations as well as patriotic organizations. It is not allowed to be used when wearing athletic uniforms or costumes. If you are thinking about using one, you can choose either the forward-facing or the reverse field flags. The left side of the flag patch should be worn closest to the heart. This is the portion where the field of stars of the flag is positioned. This means that you need reverse American flag patches if you intend to use it on the right sleeve. This placement has an important significance as it means that the soldier wearing it runs forward to battle instead of running away from it as implied when the flag patch is worn with the stripes facing forward. Hook and pile fasteners were used since 2006 instead of sewing the flag patch directly onto the uniform.

Military personnel are authorized to use three types of American flag patches. These are the full-color flag, subdued flag and infrared flag patches. The discretion for wearing any of these types depends upon the commander of the unit. Full color flags consisting of red, white and blue colors with gold trim are most often worn for garrison duty. Subdued flag patches are used in the field where camouflage is essential. In this context, subdued means that the colors used for these American flag patches blends with the combat uniform worn; hence avoiding uncalled for attention from hostile forces. Subdued flags often consist of various shades of gray but are also available in other equally drab colors. Infrared flags are also usually made of varying shades of gray but black and tan infrared flag patch and olive drab infrared flag patch are also sold through military supply outlets. These infrared flag patches have a visible IR signature when viewed through night vision equipment. They are most often used for field and combat duty and very seldom for garrison wear.

Infrared flag patches are forms of combat identification. Designed to protect soldiers from friendly fire, these infrared flag patches are observed using night vision equipment commonly found in combat helicopters and other modern combat aircraft. They are not easily differentiated from the combat uniform when viewed through the naked eye; therefore, they do not compromise the camouflage value of the combat uniform. The United States presently restricts the sales and usage of infrared flag patches to “military personnel only” because Taliban and Al-Qaeda members were able to purchase them freely when the restrictions were not yet in place. The coalition attack aircraft were not authorized to fire on anyone wearing it, hence providing enemy forces with the same protection accorded to ISAF personnel. Illegal distribution, however, still occurs and their popularity with those who engage in airsoft led to the development of replica versions that are not infrared receptive.

American flag patches, both in full and subdued colors are available through the online military store, MillitaryUniformSupply.com. Military personnel authorized to wear infrared flag patches can find the Infrared Reverse American Flag in Tan and Black and the Infrared Reverse OD American Flag, an olive drab infrared flag patch, at MillitaryUniformSupply.com. Both GI issued infrared patches, feature a reverse reflective flag and are attached with hook fasteners. They come in the same size of 2 1/8” x 3 ½” with the US flag is clearly visible under IR light illumination. Reverse Flag Patch Foliage Green in sew on type or Velcro are also available as well as a forward facing Gray on Black American Flag Patch with hook.


  1. Can you wear the OD Green IR flag in the army. 670-1 says subdued flags are the discretion of the commander. I have never seen anyone wear it though

  2. I've seen it worn for combat operations or on garrison when preparing for deployment

  3. What does a black and white flag mean

  4. Yes you can just cut the back pieces like the front. I was going to do this, but didn't know exactly what I was doing and realized it too late to change it. You will need more back fabric if you do it this way. American Flag