U.S. ARMY COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR (E-9) SHOULDER MARKS

Often referred to as “epaulets” despite the Army’s interchangeable use of that word with the phrase “shoulder loops,” shoulder marks are worn by Officers (including Warrant Officers) and Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) on Service uniform shirts (long- and short-sleeved), Maternity shirt, black Cardigan and black pullover sweaters. Only NCOs are authorized to wear shoulder marks on the black all-weather coat and the black windbreaker.

Command Sergeant Major shoulder marks are manufactured in two sizes to ensure the most professional appearance when attached to authorized uniform garments. The Large size (4.25” long) is an inch longer than the Short version, which makes the taper appear in more pronounced.
 
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The rank of Command Sergeant Major (E-9) was created in large part because of the uncertainties regarding the authorities and duties of Sergeants Major, a rank that had been disestablished in 1920 only to be resurrected in 1958 when the Army (and all military branches) added two new pay enlisted pay grades (E-8 and E-9). That move was spurred in part to provide more recognition to Senior Noncommissioned Officers and to encourage highly qualified NCOs to continue their military careers.

While introduction of these new grades did help the Army retain highly talented NCOs, with that success came a new issue: clearly defining the scope of the Sergeant Major’s job at the unit level. The problem was explained by former Command Sergeant Major Daniel K. Elder in his 1998 monograph The History of the Sergeant Major: “Although only one E-9 in any color-bearing unit could actually be the senior enlisted man,” Elder wrote, “each staff section also had an E-9. The resulting problems associated with identifying the senior enlisted man of an organization added to the disdain for the new grade.”

In 1967, the decision was made to create a new rank, Command Sergeant Major, that would be assigned the senior enlisted positions on the staffs of commanders from the battalion level on up. All other Sergeants Major would be redesignated as Staff Sergeants Major—a clumsy title that reverted back simply to Sergeants Major in 1969—and would wear the existing SGM insignia of three chevrons, three arcs, and a star.

For the new Command Sergeant Major position, a new insignia was created by reducing the size of the star and placing a wreath around it; this design was approved in 1968. In a slightly ironic twist, the insignia of grade for the Sergeant Major of the Army—a rank that had been established two years earlier and whose first occupant had strongly supported the creation of the CSM rank—was not approved until 1979.
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