Staff Sergeant shoulder marks come in two sizes and are worn on the shoulder loops of both the long- and short-sleeved Service uniform shirts (both AGSU and ASU) and the Maternity Shirt. (Note that when wearing the maternity tunic, Soldiers button the shirt’s shoulder loops over the maternity tunic to allow the shoulder marks to be visible.) Staff Sergeant shoulder marks, which are frequently referred to as epaulets or epaulettes, are also worn on shoulder loops on the Black Cardigan, the Black Windbreaker, Black All-Weather Coat, the Heritage Green Pullover, and the Leather Service Jacket (Bomber Jacket) . Soldiers are to choose between the Large and Small shoulder marks not based upon their genders, but rather according to which size fits best on the garment on which it is to be worn (see Chapter 21-8, subection (a)4 of the January 2021 edition of DA PAM 676-1 for guidance on proper fitting).

The United States Army has had the rank of Sergeant since its inception in 1775—and its age is surpassed only by the vast amount of changes and variations the rank has undergone since that time.

Within a year of the Continental Army’s founding, all its battalions were assigned a Sergeant-Major and a Quartermaster Sergeant. In 1855, the rank of “Ordnance Sergeants” was introduced, seemingly opening the way for a floodgate of specialized Sergeant titles—Commissary Sergeants, Battalion Quartermaster Sergeants, Company Quartermaster Sergeants, First Sergeants, Battalion Saddler Sergeants, Battalion Veterinary Sergeants, etc.—during the Civil War.

This proliferation continued throughout the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th, and by end of the World War I there were almost 130 different grade insignia, a great many of them for the various Sergeant positions (some admittedly were temporary.

But with the end of The Great War, Congress was eager to trim back and simplify the military, and in 1920 it did so in a stunningly radical way: it reduced the number of pay grades to just six and the number of insignias to represent them to just seven.

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