Customer Q & A: What insignia is worn on Iraqi Commando Uniforms?

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Desert Storm Iraqi Republican Guard Special Forces Uniform (SOLD)
This question comes from a customer in Europe and brings up the challenge of enhancing authentic uniforms. He purchased an Iraqi paratroop type smock for his Iraqi Commando display and wished to know what insignia to put on it if any. Accurately matching uniforms with patches, helmets, boots, and other gear from any period of time is very difficult. In order to successfully accomplish this, it helps to get insight from those who actually served in the military during that period of time and have knowledge of how politics and war mix. We’re always happy to answer questions and give any insights that we can provide based on our experience as lifelong collectors of militaria and our time served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion, as Cadre at Ranger School and as a Team Leader in USMC Force Recon.

Customer Question

1.) The rare pattern camo shirt is very nice and I wanted to “magnify” it with patches. But it is definitely a mistake : it has to remain as the “battle repaired” it is. No transformations. On a mannequin, I will put it with the “egyptian camo style” trousers I’ve bought you, it will be very nice.

2.) By chance, to carry on with Iraqi Thunder Troops (TT) Commando project, you recently published a complete camo uniform that fit with first TT picture :

TT patch final choice:

I always read on Forums that this type of DPM camo uniform was not used during OIF period.

But LTC Leonard Kergosien captured them “new untouched” in 2003 : why keeping stocked uniform if it is not potentially used ?

At your opinion : was this type of DPM camo still used in the beginning of 2000s in Iraqi army ?

I ask you this question because of the final choice of the TT patch :

-Your early TT patch : what period of use is it ?

-Your later TT patch : what period of use is it ?

With this type of DPM camo uniform : what type of TT patch would you recommend me ?

The Answer

These early DS items are now hard to find. You see how few DS items appear compared to OIF items.

I remember seeing and buying stacks of uniforms after DS.  My first purchase was several complete uniforms with helmets, boots, berets, caps and personal items from a veteran I have now known since 1992. After his service in the Infantry in Viet Nam, He stayed in the Army Reserve and went to DS as a Captain. He sent hundreds of Iraqi items home in MRE boxes. Postage was “Free.” He had about 30 boxes. I got to look through everything a few months after he came home. It was all stacked on his pool table. Everything was used, dusty and dirty. Most of the uniforms were green, made in Romania and Korea. He sold me almost no camouflage as it was very rarely seen. He had been a collector before he went to DS so he knew what to take from the battlefield. He and I are still friends.

As for what is written on forums, I trust my experience having collected Iraqi items since 1991. Plus, no two veterans experiences will be alike. The Iraqi military would never say that is the “wrong pattern,” it’s too old, do not wear it!  Iraq became a poor country after DS due to international sanctions. They could not afford to say such things.

Always keep in mind this stuff was made for issue to soldiers to wear and use in war. It was never made with us collectors in mind. As for new old stock appearing, you will find it to be a worldwide practice where the military orders much more than they need. If there is a budget to spend, the military spends it all, every penny. They stockpile the surplus for the future. This is why even WW1 and WW2 items still are found in brand new condition.  So to be direct, I have seen many new old stock DS era items which came back from Iraq. The new in the wrap Desert Storm helmets I have actually came back from OIF. I bought many from one veteran.  In fact, few new old stock items came back from DS because we did not capture the whole country and did not have the chance to take “souvenirs” from supply rooms. Most DS items were used, dusty and dirty as the Iraqi soldiers were stuck in bunkers in the desert for months waiting for the invasion to begin. Iraq did not know if we would invade the whole country and sent many units, that were not first rate, to sit in bunkers and slow down the invaders. They kept their best units back so relativity few elite items came back then. When we invaded Baghdad in 2003, it was a wide open city. GIs could take whatever they wanted. The average Iraqi soldier deserted and went home, the rest surrendered. Relatively few stood and fought.

Collectors are now trying to piece together in their minds what was worn, how units were equipped etc.  Keep in mind all the world’s intelligence, including Russia and China, believed Saddam had WMDs. If we got that wrong, we probably got a great deal wrong about units like TT, 999, the Republican Guard, Fedayeen. The intelligence gathered before invasion is always an estimate. It’s not like we had operatives planted in each unit feeding us information about the uniforms and insignia worn.

The TT camouflage in the photo you sent could be desert DPM. It is hard to know in a b&w photo.

The smocks I have were not issued, just stored for decades. The Vet I got them from could not recall the exact circumstances.  I suspect, since he was in Baghdad, they were in a warehouse just waiting for an Iraqi unit to requisition them before the invasion. It did not happen before the invasion so they were free for anyone to take. There were no guards anywhere.  Please recall the looting of museums in Baghdad in 2003.  Civilians would not take uniforms. They would not be caught in such things. Especially an elite uniform; too many problems and questions, maybe jail? Recall the Iraqi soldiers took off their uniforms and just left for home.

The era of each TT Patch we have is just an estimate. The crude one is early in my mind as all things are improved over time. This is true with automobiles, computers, phones etc. If there were dated color photos we would know more. There are none we have seen yet.

The type of TT patch is up to you. It seems it should go on DPM camouflage.  The best would be a smock.  In my mind having seen the TTs with parachute wings under their TT badge they would be issued one. The simple DPM shirt and pants you want is much more common than a smock. It is elite compared to a green uniform but a smock is much more elite.

New patches on an old uniform never “look right” to collectors.

I changed patches on my jungle fatigues from when I left being cadre at Ranger School to the 3rd Ranger Battalion. The 3rd Ranger Bn scroll I was issued changed three times until it was finalized. A collector looking at my jungle fatigues would say seeing the patches changed, and the sewing marks, so many times, means it’s “fake.” I had the same Jungle fatigues for nearly four years and removed and resewed patches a number of times.

What do you think?

If you’re reading this and have anything to contribute regarding this topic, we welcome your comments or questions below!
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