Dog tags have been in use in some form since the Civil War and continue to be used today. Dog tags are the two, small metal tags most commonly worn around the neck of soldiers. The two tags are identical and are called dog tags because they resemble very closely the tags a dog wears on his collar.
The use of dog tags is primarily to provide military professionals with a guaranteed system of identification for soldiers. When a soldier dies, the military takes identifying the soldier and notifying the family very seriously. Dog tags provide them with the means of doing this. The tags also provide important information if a soldier is injured and unconscious or otherwise unable to speak, as they provide the I.D. required to access his medical records.
The reason that soldiers always wear two dog tags is so that one can be recovered and the other left with the soldier. This is important in situations where speed is a factor. It allows someone to grab one of the tags, which are designed to break away from each other, and then submit it to the proper military authorities to ensure that notifications are processed correctly.
Most soldiers wear the common two dog tag configuration on a chain around the neck. Although one tag is meant to break away while the other remains, some units have special regulations that allow for tags to be worn in different ways. For instance, a soldier might be allowed to have a dog tag in his boot rather than worn around the neck. Some also wear tags with special rubber insulators that keep the tags from rattling when silent movement is essential.
Soldiers are not given the option whether or not to wear dog tags. According to the official U.S. Army regulations, there are several instances when soldiers are required to wear I.D. tags at all time. This includes any time they are outside the country, at all times during an operation and also while in air transit.
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