WASHINGTON — Soldiers in Iraq will soon have a new shoulder sleeve patch to signify their service in the fight against the Islamic State.
All told, there are about 3,335 troops in the region training Iraqi troops, providing security and conducing bombing missions on Islamic State targets in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The Army’s patch features crossed scimitars, a palm wreath and stars. The scimitars, short swords with curved blades, are meant to symbolize the twin goals of the U.S.-led coalition: to defeat the Islamic State, also referred to as ISIL, and to restore stability in the region, according to Army documents.
The palm wreath is symbol of honor. While the stars and the buff-and-blue colors on the patch indicate the three-star command and the land, air and sea forces involved in the fight.
Scimitars and palm wreaths have appeared on patches from previous periods of war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein also favored the look, building a grand sculpture called the Arc of Triumph to commemorate the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s. It became a favored back drop for soldiers, contractors and journalists to snap photos after the invasion in 2003.
The current round of conflict there, referred to as Operation Inherent Resolve, by the Pentagon, began in August 2014. ISIL fighters swept through northern Iraq, seizingMosul, its second largest city, threatening the Kurdish region and ultimately advancing toward Baghdad.
U.S.-led airstrikes stemmed the advance to a degree. However, ISIL fighters retain control of Mosul and in May seized the Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar in western Iraq. They continue to hold those cities and a broad region stretching west into Syria despite daily airstrikes.
Since August 2014, there have been more than 7,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, destroying thousands of buildings and hundreds of tanks and Humvees the fighters seized from fleeing Iraqi troops. It cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $10 million per day to fly combat missions and train local troops. All told, the bill for the current fight is nearly $4 billion.
“Unit insignia is important because it fosters esprit de corps,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve. “The CJTF-OIR headquarters is made up of men and women from all services, many nations and many different units in the Army. This insignia will be worn by all of the Army members of the CJTF and may be authorized for wear by other services and nations according to their regulations.”