About 180 Texas Army National Guard soldiers deployed to Iraq with A Troop Provisional (Special), 1st Squadron, 124th Armored Cavalry are sporting new shoulder patches as their parent armored division was recently redesignated as an infantry division.

The soldiers had deployed to Iraq from the 49th Armored Division in March, but on May 1 the unit became the 36th Infantry Division.

The change from armored to infantry was done to align the unit with active Army divisions, according to the Texas Army National Guard Web site.

“The first purpose for the change is to start changing the mindset of the Texas Army National Guard from a heavy armored force to a light, more versatile infantry force,” said Maj. Trey Roberson, Texas ANG Force integration and readiness officer, in an introduction on the unit’s Web site.

“The second purpose is to bring back the historic lineage of the 36th Infantry Division,” he said.

The change from the 49th to the 36th is more than symbolic to the soldiers.

“It’s definitely a change,” said Spc. James Zigler. “I’m a tanker, so I’ll have to change [jobs] to stay with the unit.”

The Guardsmen are attached to the 89th Military Police Brigade near the Iranian border northeast of Baghdad.

“Putting on the 36th’s patch is more than an honor, it’s the highest honor we can get,” said Sgt. Earnest Jackson. “We’re the first group since World War II to be awarded the 36th’s combat patch.”

Those soldiers serving in Iraq will be able to wear either the 49th’s or 36th’s patch on the right shoulder as their combat patch.

“Basically, we started wearing it last month,” said Zigler. “The brigade commander of the 89th [Col. David Phillips] gave us a little ceremony for the new patches.”

“It looks like everyone’s proud to put this patch on,” said Sgt. Gary Dechaume.

About 12,000 National Guard soldiers will now wear the T-patch, as it is called. Its arrowhead shape represents Oklahoma while the large “T” in the center is for Texas.

The 36th was activated for World War I, made up of Guardsmen from Oklahoma and Texas, and re-activated for World War II.

The division fought in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France during WWI and in Italy and France during WWII.

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