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Assignment patch

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Multiple realities
(covers information from several alternate timelines)
602 Club patches large

Several patches on display in the 602 Club

NASA patches, First Flight

NASA patches on display in the 602 Club

Robert Wesley, 2268

Commodore Robert Wesley wears the "Starfleet Command" assignment patch

An assignment patch was a patch or badge seen on uniforms, most notably on Earth, where their use began in the 20th century. The United Earth Starfleet and MACO personnel continued to use assignment patches to denote the ship, station, or other post to which an individual was assigned, as did the later Federation Starfleet.

History

In 20th and 21st century Earth, assignment patches were used on military uniforms and civilian uniforms alike. NASA patches from that era appeared in the Crash-n-Burn Bar in Bozeman, Montana, and at the 602 Club in San Francisco. {Star Trek: First Contact; ENT: "First Flight")

While most of the patches seen at the 602 Club were real NASA mission patches, one case contained fictional patches from the Star Trek universe. Many of them were shown only in First Flight.

In the early 22nd century, Starfleet personnel wore assignment patches on the sleeve of their left arm, in a similar style worn during the initial period of space flight on Earth. The uniform was later updated, adding the Starfleet patch to the right arm. (ENT; ENT: "These Are the Voyages...")

In the mid-23rd century, Starfleet continued the tradition of using unique patch emblems for different assignments, albeit placing them instead over the left breast. By 2278, this styling ceased, and Starfleet adopted the USS Enterprise's assignment patch as the standard emblem for all Starfleet personnel. Assignment patches thus fell into disuse, and Starfleet supplanted them with badges and eventually combadges. (TOS; TNG: "Cause and Effect") For example, a style of Starfleet pins incorporating the Enterprise emblem was made into a combadge, used by the crew of the Ambassador-class USS Enterprise-C, by 2344. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise")

The last assignment patch seen in the 23rd century was for Epsilon IX Station personnel in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, set in the 2270s. The Starfleet pins adopting the Enterprise emblem were first seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Newer combadges were first seen in TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint".
There are some stray elements which detract from the "one ship, one emblem" theory often applied to spacecrafts of the 23rd century; some members of Kirk's Academy class who cajoled Kirk in a lounge in TOS: "Court Martial" also wore the Enterprise patch. It would seem unlikely that Kirk's direct subordinates would take part in such a thing, classmate or no, so it at least suggests they were assigned elsewhere, yet had the same patch.

In the mirror universe, the Terran Empire used the traditional styling from the 22nd century. While the Empire's uniforms had several variations that distinguished them from those of the prime universe, they still wore mission patches on their shoulders. By the 23rd century, the mission patch had been replaced with the Imperial insignia. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly", "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"; TOS: "Mirror, Mirror")

In the alternate reality created by Nero's destruction of the USS Kelvin, assignment patches were done away with much sooner than in the prime timeline, with the Kelvin's patch becoming Starfleet's standard by the 2250s. (Star Trek)

20th and 21st century patches

The Charybdis mission patch was replaced in the TNG Season 2 Blu-ray release of "The Royale". The original design was a repurposed Apollo XVII mission patch, featuring the names of that vessel's astronaut crew.

22nd century patches

23rd century patches

24th century patches

Appendices

Background information

The assignment patch for the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) and the movie-era Starfleet assignment badge are very similar to those used by the US Space Command in the 20th century and early 21st century.

The assignment patch for Enterprise NX-01 was created by Wendy Drapanas, whereas the patch for the ECS Horizon was designed by Anthony Fredrickson. "When Wendy and I had our assignments on the pilot ["Broken Bow"]," recalled Fredrickson, "one of hers was to design the NX-01 patch–which was a cherry assignment that I was very jealous she got! So when Mike [Okuda] gave me the Horizon patch, even though it was only for one show, I was very happy." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 144, p. 36)

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