U.S. ARMY BRIGADIER GENERAL SHOULDER MARKS

Shoulder marks are worn by the highest-ranking General Officers down to the lowest Noncommissioned Officer, a Corporal (E-4), but it is only at the rank of Brigadier General that the rank insignia displayed on them is centered vertically each mark. For Brigadier Generals, this is a single star is worn in what DA 670-1 describes as “point to V,” i.e., with a single ray pointing toward the wearer’s neck and shoulder-loop button. The star is placed equidistant from the outside edge of the loop and outer edge of the shoulder loop button.

Shoulder marks are designed to slide over shoulder loops found on sweaters and shirts, but not all garment manufacturers’ produce the shoulder loops to the same precise specifications. For this reason, the Army mandates that Shoulder Loops be produce in two sizes to ensure the proper fit after sliding on the shoulder marks; a correct fit leaves the loop’s hook-and-loop (Velcro) pad or buttons completely exposed.

Large shoulder marks are four-and-one-quarter inches long, while Small marks are an inch shorter. Both sizes measure 2-and-1/8 inches wide at the base (the side closest to the shoulder), with the Small narrowing to just 1-and-25/32 (1.78125 inches) and the Large tapering to 1-and-3/4 (1.75 inches).
 
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The use of stars as rank insignia for General Officers dates back to the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s desire to provide a method for more quickly identifying different types of officers. Before 1780, both Brigadier and Major Generals alike were identified by a pink “riband” worn across their chests; in orders issued in June of that year, Washington announced that Brigadier Generals would wear epaulets with one star, Major Generals epaulets with two; they would also be distinguished by the feathers in their hats (white for BG, black and white for MG).

Although the number of grades of General Officer expanded dramatically in both the Army and all the other branches of military service, the same basic concept of using stars to indicate higher levels of authority and command has remained unchanged for over 240 years.
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