U.S. ARMY PIN-ON METAL FIRST SERGEANT CHEVRONS

Nonsubdued pin-on grade insignia, manufactured with anodized 22K gold plating, is worn by First Sergeants (E-8) serving in just two branches: the Quartermaster Corps (as a Culinary Specialist) and the Medical Department (as an assistant in one of a variety of Military Occupational Specialties). Placement of the gold pin-on First Sergeant chevrons depends on the garment: it is centered above the nameplate on the long-sleeve Garrison Culinary smock, but worn centered on the collars of the short-sleeved culinary smock and the Medical Assistant smock.

While the advantages of wearing subdued metal insignia during combat operations might seem obvious, in point of fact subdued black metal insignia was not authorized for wear on the collar of work uniforms until 1967 was drawing to a close. Today, Soldiers may opt to wear subdued pin-on insignia in place of either sew-on or embroidered cloth (Velcro) rank insignia, but they do not have the option of mixing and matching the two. Black metal First Sergeant chevrons may be worn centered on the Velcro face pads found on Utility uniforms; they may also be worn in lieu of subdued sew grade insignia on the Patrol Cap or the camouflage cover of the helmet.

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Although Congress established the somewhat generic rank of Sergeant (spelled “serjeant” in the original documents) when it created the Army through a resolution of June 14, 1775, it was not until Prussian General Baron von Steuben joined the Continental Army some three years later that the structure of the enlisted corps and its Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) began to take shape. In his 1779 manual Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, the German general outlined the various NCO ranks, from Corporal up to Sergeant Major—but it was the First Sergeant, serving at the company level, that received most of his attention.

To Steuben, nearly every aspect of a company’s performance depended on how diligent the unit’s First Sergeant was in instruction in various disciplines and enforcing infractions in violation thereof. In addition to maintaining the duty roster and delivering a daily report each morning to the unit commander, the First Sergeant also kept a company “descriptive book” that listed essential information—name, place of birth, age, height, work experience and knowledge—about each man in the company. To appreciate just how high a regard the Army held for this system of capturing metadata about its Soldiers, consider this: these “descriptive books” were maintained by First Sergeants up until the first decade of the Twentieth Century.
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