Throughout the past year, the U.S. Army has pushed a lot of narrative about “multi-component” units — those comprising formations of Regular Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard soldiers. This messaging usually focuses on flashy “re-patching” or “patch-over” ceremonies, in which soldiers (usually reservists) replace the patches on their left shoulders with those of a different, allegedly more famous (and usually active-duty) unit.

The latest is the Washington National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (81st SBCT). Rather than wear its regionally distinctive raven head — a blend of Northwestern Pacific design elements from the Haida, the Nookta, and Kwakiutl tribes — the brigade will now sport the active-duty Army’s 2nd Infantry Division patch. The U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry describes the symbolism of the latter as “an Indian’s head with war bonnet in profile.”

Meanwhile, salty veterans mutter about “round-out,” “WARTRACE,” and “CAPSTONE” brigades — examples of previous active-reserve integration programs. For some, it’s hard not to dismiss all the hoo-hah and hoopla as nothing more than yet another canine and equine extravaganza. Or, even worse, an attempt to plaster over some good old citizen-soldier history.

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