Robin Bartlett

Band of Brothers

The Cav patch…that big, beautiful yellow patch, the largest patch of all the Army’s units, was designed by Col and Mrs. Ben Dorsey when he first served with the 7th Cavalry at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Mrs. Dorsey originally explained that the patch had to be large enough to be seen through the dust and sand at Fort Bliss and was made that way because it is worn by big men who do big things.

The yellow background covers a triangular Norman shield with rounded corners. The traditional cavalry color is yellow and the black horse’s head symbolizes the division’s roots as a cavalry unit. The black diagonal stripe represents the belt for a sword worn over the shoulder and crossed over the chest and back and is a mark of military honor. It implies movement “up the field” and symbolizes aggressiveness and attack. It is also the symbol of iron and conveys the unit’s transition from horses to track and armored vehicles. The diagonal band as well as the single horse head alludes to the Division’s numerical designation.

The insignia was originally approved for the 1st Cavalry Division on January 3, 1921 with several variations in colors of the band and horse’s head to reflect subordinate elements of the division. The current design came into effect on December 11, 1934. It was redesignated for the 1st Air Cavalry Division on August 5, 1968 and subsequently redesignated for the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) on September 10, 1968. It was returned to the original designation of the 1st Cavalry Division on May 24, 1971.

General Creighton Abrams, the Commanding General in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972, had this to say about the patch: The big yellow patch does something to an individual that makes him a better soldier, a better team member, and a better American than he otherwise would have been.

General Peter W. Chiarelli, former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (VCSA) and the 1st Cav Division Commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), said: Wearing the largest patch in the Army inventory also brings with it a responsibility to be the best.

Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV, the current 1st Cavalry Division Commanding General added: So, wear the patch proudly, and live up to the standards it represents. Draw strength and inspiration from the patch, from our history, from our veterans, from our legacy. That’s what it means to live the legend of the First Team.

From my research and my own experience, I have become aware of the great significance of men and women who have served and are serving with the 1st Cavalry Division. There are tens of thousands of us all with a rich proud history dating back to the days when the division was first established as a cavalry division in 1921 patrolling the Mexican border. It is one of the most decorated units in the US Army, having served in every major American conflict including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The division’s nickname is “The First Team” and motto is “Live the Legend.” The 1st Cavalry Division is also known for its equestrian heritage. Although that skill is no longer used in battle, they have kept their Horse Cavalry Detachment (HCD) alive and trotting. Today, the Horse Cavalry Detachment is used for ceremonial and recruitment purposes and preserves the division’s horseback-riding roots. In 2014 this unique unit was made up of 39 service members, 31 horses, five mules and two dogs. The soldiers in the unit pay homage to the soldiers before them by doing what they would have done back in the day, like training and caring for the horses and mules. They also make their own saddles and boots in the unit’s leather shop, train with weapons that are exact replicas of what was formerly used, and wear the same style uniforms worn by their predecessors.

For me, it was and still is an honor to have worn this famous unit’s patch on both my left and right shoulder, to have been a member of “The First Team” and a member of this remarkable “Band of Brothers.”

To quote William Shakespeare’s Henry V, in 1599:

We few, we happy few
We band of Brothers,
For he today that sheds
His blood with me
Shall be my Brother


For further reading:
About the Cav patch:
Military patch design and approval:
Heraldry behind US Military, Government Insignia:


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