Unlike E-1 to E-4 Airmen and NonCommissioned Officers NCOs in the grades of E-5 and E-6 , Air Force Senior Master Sergeants (E-8) may wear shoulder mark insignia on the epaulets of the 50/50 Acrylic/Wool pullover sweater and the blue or white cardigan sweater. Shoulder marks are available in two sizes, with male and female personnel allowed to wear the size of their choice.

From 1982 to 2006, Senior Master Sergeant shoulder marks could also be worn on the shirts and blouses of several service uniforms, a decision formally announced on 25 February 1982 in Interim Message change 82-1. The expansion of the use of shoulder marks for SNCOs (E-7 to E-9) was the result of a move to provide greater recognition for the top three ranks of Enlisted personnel. Because of an initial shortage of shoulder marks, SNCOs were also temporarily authorized to wear metal insignia of grade on the epaulets of the pullover sweater.

Although the redesign of the SNCO chevrons in 1991 achieved the goal of providing the top tier of Enlisted personnel with highly distinctive insignia, the use of shoulder marks on shirts and blouses of SNCOs was permitted for another fifteen years. The mandatory date for wearing SNCO chevrons on shirt and blouse sleeves was 1 October 2006.

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