KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The U.S. Army patching ceremony, a tradition that began in 1918 with the 81st Infantry Division, continues to be conducted by units throughout the Army to recognize Soldiers who have served in a hostile environment or area of operation declared by the Secretary of the Army higher.
During the ceremony, senior leaders within the unit place the shoulder sleeve insignia for former wartime service, most commonly known as the combat patch, on the right shoulder of their Soldiers.
According to the Army's Wear and Appearance of the Army Uniforms and Insignia regulation, Soldiers wear the shoulder sleeve insignia on the left shoulder for the organization they are currently assigned to and the right shoulder will hold the SSI-FWTS for the organization they were in during combat operations.
"(The combat patch) is a demonstration that a Soldier has performed their war time duties in harm's way," said Command Sgt. Maj. Anton Hillig. "It means a lot, specifically, to our younger Soldiers, it's like a badge of honor for them."
Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, that recently deployed to Afghanistan, held patching ceremonies throughout the month of March in Afghanistan.
Hillig, senior enlisted advisor, Train, Advise and Assist Command-South and 2nd IBCT, earned his first combat patch in 2005 in Baghdad, Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division.
"It was a special moment for me then and it's a special moment for me now seeing my Soldiers earn their patch," he said.
Hillig said it's important, especially as senior leaders, to continue the tradition of the patching ceremony for the younger generation of Soldiers.
"It's an honor to serve in the same unit that has been around since World War I and II," said Spc. James Buckingham, a Soldier with 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd IBCT. "I am proud to wear the 4th Inf. Div. patch on my left and right shoulder."
Although most leaders focus is on the younger Soldiers, senior leaders take pride in being part of the ceremony.
"I am extremely honored to command these (Soldiers) and to be part of a unit with such a storied history," said Lt. Col. Mike Wroblewski, battalion commander, 704th BSB, 2nd IBCT.
As Hillig visits his Soldiers throughout Kandahar, he said what stands out the most to him is seeing how proudly the Soldiers of the War Horse Brigade wear their patch on both shoulders.
"It was a very humbling experience for me to watch entire battalions don their 4th Inf. Div. patch," said Hillig. "But to see all the Soldiers, even those who have deployed previously, wear the division's patch is truly amazing and a testament of how much we love this division and what it stands for."
The 2nd IBCT, 4th Inf. Div. will be working with Soldiers of the 40th Infantry Division, California National Guard, as the Train, Advise and Assist Command-South during the nine-month deployment.
The command's mission is to train and assist Afghan security forces and support counterterrorism operations.