The Army is changing its dog tags design for the first time in 40 years. The aluminum identification tags which hang from a soldier’s neck had been emblazoned with the wearer’s Social Security number. Due to identity theft concerns, the Army will now replace the personal identification number that can be used to garner credit cards and a host of other financial accounts, with a randomly assigned number.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) December 10, 2015
The Army dog tags change was ordered in 2007, but the military has only now completed the new system required to issue the 10-digit number which will be engraved on the ID tags. The new dog tags will not reportedly be issued immediately to all soldiers, but be phased in, beginning with service members scheduled for deployment.
The identifying tags worn by soldiers also display the wearer’s name, blood type, and religion. When a soldier is killed on the battlefield, one tag is left with the body to ensure that individual can be identified and the other is ultimately placed with the military burial unit.
How Army dog tags are made — video
Soldiers Programs Branch Chief Michael Klemowski said that Army dog tags contain so much personal information that a simple Google search to locate a birth date would allow a soldier to become a victim of identity theft. Not only can an online search lead to the discovery of a birth date, but to a home address, as well.
Medina, Ohio, boy gives Army dog tags found in a field in France back to the family of World War II pilot.
ISIS has routinely called for attacks on American military personnel, prompting the Department of Defense to caution members to safeguard their personal information on social media. If enemy militants gain access to a soldier’s dog tag, the social media savvy ISIS fighters could wreak havoc on the American’s bank accounts by opening and using credit cards in their name.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) December 9, 2015
Army dog tags have not been around forever, but they have existed for nearly 10o years. Just prior to the start of World War I, the Army began issuing the identifying tags in every soldier’s field kit, CNN reports. A 2012 Library of Congress document addressing the history and importance of dog tags said that the little metal identification emblems help to individualize soldiers who each play a “small part of a huge and faceless organization.” The report goes on to say that the dog tags, which hang over the chest and above the heart of Army members, also bring them comfort during times of great trial.
A precursor to Army dog tags were created quite simply by Civil War soldiers. Soldiers grew concerned about being left on the battlefield and family waiting at home not being notified about their death — or having a body to bury, as the war between the states raged on a lot longer than expected. Many soldiers pinned handwritten notes containing their names and addresses to the inside back of their coats and stenciled the same identifying information on the back of their belts and knapsacks.
During the Civil war, record keeping was not diligently tended to, and even battlefield marked graves and information identifying the dead was often lost. After the war ended, the Army exhumed the remains of about 300,000 Union soldiers that were buried in fields around the South. Approximately 54 percent of the remains of Union soldiers, and 75 percent of the remains of Confederate soldiers, were listed as unidentified after the war, the Army Dog Tags history website notes.
[Photo by AP Photo/Steve Helber]