Social Security numbers are being removed from soldiers’ dog tags, the Army has announced. The change is the first update to the official identification tags in more than 40 years. What goes around, comes around! A soldier’s Social Security number will be replaced by a 10-digit, randomly-generated number. That’s the way identity tags used to identify their wearers. Historically, a tag would be emblazoned with either R.A. or U.S. followed by an eight-digit number. R.A. stood for Regular Army. U.S. identified draftees.
Dog tag is an informal term for the identification tags worn by military personnel because of their resemblance to animal registration tags. While the tags are primarily used for the identification of dead and wounded soldiers; they have personal info about the soldiers and convey basic medical information, such as blood type and history of inoculations. The tags indicate religious preference as well. They’re usually fabricated from a corrosion-resistant metal and commonly come in identical pairs. According to Army tradition, this duplication allows one tag to be collected from a soldier’s body for notification. The other would remain with the fallen soldier.
In the 1990s the Army stopped using the term dog tag, replacing it with ID tags. Information on the ID tags varies little from branch to branch of service. Only the Marine Corps includes a Marine’s gas mask size.
The updates will be implemented on an as-needed basis, Michael Klemowski, of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said in a statement released by the Army.
“This change is not something where soldiers need to run out and get new tags made,” he said. “We are focusing first on personnel who are going to deploy.”
They are the first ones who will have to have new ID tags made, he added.
The change is in accordance with new Defense Department guidelines calling for less use of Social Security numbers. “Removing Social Security numbers from dog tags is one of the ways the Army is trying to safeguard personal information,” Klemowski said.