DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. -- Have you ever wondered where all the flags the Army uses come from? Nope? You're not alone.
Army flags are ubiquitous, as in everywhere -- and not just displayed in the foyer or entry to your building or in the commander's conference room. Most of us, despite seeing them everywhere on a regular basis, don't give them a second thought. The Army has them by the thousands, if not the tens of thousands. It's part of how armies roll, not to mention an integral and important part of our Army history and current protocols.
The Army flag mission is huge, quantitatively and logistically speaking, and just one small unit handles each and every one of them. They support their thousands of customers by coordinating the designs, overseeing the acquisition process and ensuring they are received by their requesting organizations in a timely manner.
Kimberly Arnold, a supervisor working for the Clothing and Heraldry directorate in northeast Philadelphia, knows the mission well.
"Every Army unit, from the smallest to the largest, has a unique flag," she said. "We control the supply and issue of all stock, heraldic items and that includes flags, guidons and streamers for the Army, all unit flags from companies to divisions, religious flags, campaign streamers and sets, regimental flags and school-affiliated flags."
She paused for a breath, then added, "That's all Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Reserve Officer Training Corps, general officers, the Senior Executive Service, Pentagon officials and the White House. We also manage the Medal of Honor flag."
Arnold said her small team of four receive new and or revised flag designs and authorization from the Institute of Heraldry. They, in turn, coordinate with the Defense Logistics Agency's Troop Support to establish the flags in the supply system, manage requirements and contract for or directly purchase stock items.
"We have thousands and thousands of flag designs," Arnold said. "We anticipate totally automating all drawings in the future, but we can now electronically send drawings along with manufacturing instructions to the appropriate offices that produce the flags"
A select few, specialized flags are hand-sewn by workers with many years of expertise in the DLA flag room.
The Presidential and Vice-Presidential flags are hand woven or, more accurately, hand crafted. No two are exactly alike due to small variations in stitching styles and no other flags are hand sewn making these flags extra special.
"The flags are immaculate," Arnold exclaimed. "You should see how beautiful they are. The details of the eagle and the many colors of his eyeball, for instance, are incredible. It takes up to a couple of months to produce just one flag."
She added that the Presidential and Vice-Presidential flags can cost upwards of $9,000 each.
The heraldry team also manages all Army general officer flags, stocking and distributing each one as colonels are promoted and general officers are promoted above the one-star level. Each receives a flag kit that contains an indoor flag, an outdoor flag, a U.S. flag, an automobile plate, two flag cases and two flag poles.
"It's like Christmas with all the stuff in there," Arnold said.
The next time you see an Army flag of any type posted indoors or out, think of Kim Arnold and her team as having had a hand in each one of them and helping to keep our traditions Army strong.
Clothing and Heraldry belongs to the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Integrated Logistics Support Center's Soldier and Chem-Bio Readiness and Sustainment directorate.
About Tank-automotive and Armaments Command:
TACOM manages the Army's ground equipment supply chain, which constitutes about 60 percent of the Army's total equipment. If a Soldier drives it, shoots it, wears it or eats it, TACOM sustains it.
TACOM's Integrated Logistics Support Center executes repair parts planning and supply chain management for more than 3,500 weapon systems. These systems form the core of America's ground combat capability. When the force needs critical components delivered, whether at home or abroad, it depends on TACOM.
TACOM oversees six of the Army's manufacturing arsenals and maintenance depots across the United States, which are part of the Army's Organic Industrial Base. The industrial artisans from the Army's OIB deliver when the Army needs equipment manufactured, repaired, upgraded or modernized.
The Detroit Arsenal, home to TACOM headquarters, is the only active-duty U.S. Army installation in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Detroit Arsenal and its Michigan-based workforce of more than 6000 people contribute billions of dollars in economic impact to the region's economy each year.
TACOM's workforce includes highly skilled and uniquely qualified professionals, from engineers and industrial artisans to senior logisticians and business analysts. The largely civilian workforce is critical to supporting Army readiness around the world.