May 4, 2020
How much do you know about military lapel pins? What they’re used for? How many there are? What about which branches use which pins? Before we get into any of this, let’s set up some definitions. “Pins” is an overarching term—it’s a category that has many items listed beneath it. Beneath this “pins” category are badges, patches, and other insignia. For this reason, the military badges we’re about to discuss are sometimes badges and sometimes pins, but any can be made into a pin and worn with pride. But before you go buying a pin, read on to learn more about the different types.
Though each branch has its own badged and pins it awards to its members, there are several badges and pins that are common across all branches of the military. So, if you’re looking for a pin for someone in the Armed Forces—no matter what branch they’re in—you might be able to start here.
Identification badges are pins worn by any member of the U.S. Armed Forces to identify their unit and/or rank. Although these badges are worn by all members of the military, there are identification badges specific to each branch. For example, the Army has its Master Gunner Identification Badge, the Navy has its Command at Sea Badge, and the Air Force has its Headquarters Air Force Badge.
Marksmanship badges are another famous category present across the military. Lapel pins for these can be made to reflect those of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. The Army awards these badges to personnel who possess special skill in a variety of weapons, while the Navy only awards them to denote a person who is qualified to use a weapon in general, and the Marine Corps only awards marksmanship badges for rifles and pistols.
Aviation awards have an interesting role in the U.S. Armed Forces because not only do they appear across almost every branch of the military, but the specific badges in each are different. For example, the Air Force awards three different categories of Aviation badges—Aeronautical, Aircrew, and Graduate—while the Navy dons their members with pins like Naval Aviator and Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist. The other branches boast their own versions too, like the Marine Corps’ Aviator and Aircrew Badges for the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Now that we’ve looked at some commonalities among the branches, let’s take a look at some cool lapel pins awarded specifically to certain branches of the military.
The Army awards badges and pins for eight different categories—but the real heart and soul of the Army is in its Special Skill Groups.
Altogether, the Army boasts five special skill groups, all dedicated to some unique category of special skill. Category one is designated to infantrymen and soldiers, category 2 is for those involved in the medical field, category 3 is designed for different aviation awards, category 4 awards to a number of roles from Pathfinder to Jungle Expert and Arctic Expert, and finally, category 5 is for divers, mechanics, and parachute riggers.
The Navy chooses to award their men and women who operate and achieve highly in Warfare and Other special qualifications.
The Navy awards Warfare badges like Fleet Marine Force, Information Warfare, Seabee Combat Warfare, and Engineering Duty. The Warfare insignia are considered “above” the other qualifications and are given primary directive and importance.
The second category of the Navy’s badges is its Other Qualifications. These badges are awarded to a number of positions; the Nuclear Weapons Security Insignia is given to those who are assigned to the Strategic Weapons Facility, while the Underwater pin is worn by Navy personnel who have previously completed a year or more in a deep sea submarine.
The Air Force awards badges in what they deem the “occupational” fields: Operations, Logistics, Support, Professional, Acquisition, and Medical.
Some of these categories have many badges, like the Operations’ whopping ten, while others have only a few—the Acquisition category has a mere 1! Some badges you might become familiar with here are the Space Operations and Weapons Director badges that are awarded to Air Force personnel in the operational career group, the Missile Maintenance and Transportation pins worn by members of the Support group, or the Medical, Nurse, and Dental Corps badges within the medical career field.
If you remember correctly the two essential categories of the Navy—Warfare and Other Qualifications—good news! You’ll remember the badges awarded to the Marine Corps too. The members of the United States Marine Corps are awarded the same badges as the Navy—the Parachutist badge, the Explosive Ordnance badge, and the Diver badge. The Marine Corps does have its own badges, though, such as the Marine Corps Special Operator Insignia.
Many of the Coast Guard’s badges fall under the same categories as those of other branches—Marksmanship, Command, Identification, and Aviation—but it does have its own badges under each these, as well as its own qualification badges. Some examples of these are the Surfman Badge, Port Security Enlisted Pin, and Marine Safety Insignia.
Now, you probably know a lot more about the different types of military lapel pins and badges than you did before. But you should still do extensive research and consult a trusted source when creating the perfect pin, as there are many pins we didn’t cover. Designing a military lapel pin—whether it be for a member of the Armed Forces, a veteran, or yourself, requires deep attention to detail in order to capture the accuracy and essence of a military badge.