A Guide To Air Force Heraldry

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William M. Russell
Revised Edition by Julian C. Godwin


The original version of A Guide to Air Force Heraldry was written by William M. Russell of the USAF Historical Research Center and published in 1985. During the years that have elapsed since then, several Air Force regulations and instructions have been issued to aid Air Force organizations with the design, submission, and procurement of organizational emblems and flags. Most recently, the governing policy on Air Force heraldry, AFI 84-105, Organizational Lineage, Honors, and Emblems, has been revised with several changes made in Chapter 3, "Air Force Heraldry." Consequently, the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) which receives many requests for assistance and guidance in the creation of emblems, updated this guide to conform to the policy changes and to give the field historian greater guidance. Our success will be measured by the user's ability to modify or create emblems meeting current Air Force requirements and the needs of the organization.

Maxwell AFB, Alabama



Chapter 1: Heraldry Through The Ages


Symbols have distinguished friend from foe in warfare throughout recorded history. Organizations of the United States Air Force, like other military organizations, employ heraldic emblems as a means of identification and for esprit de corps. The emblems symbolize the organization's history , mission, or function. Emblematic devices are recorded in the earliest biblical period. Osyris, the grandson of Noah used a "Sceptre Royal, insigned on the top with an eye." 1 In the annals of the Trojan War, the Greeks reportedly sported emblems on their shields. Later, the eagle of the Roman legions, a highly visible symbol throughout the empire, represented the might of Imperial Rome. Indeed, before the Middle Ages, all organized tribes and states accepted and used symbols and heraldic devices. None of these devices were hereditary, but they were the predecessors of medieval heraldry.

Heraldry as we know it today had its beginning in the early 12th century during the period between the First and Second Crusades. To ensure recognition while wearing armor and a helmet that partially hid the face, enterprising knights began to use identifying symbols and devices called cognizance's, which were painted on their shields and embroidered on the pennons (cloth banners) attached to their lances. This practice spread rapidly as warriors from different European lands gathered to participate in tournaments and fight in the Crusades. The inheriting of these cognizance's started in western Europe during the second quarter of the 12th century when men of the knightly class began to display on their shields the devices that had been borne by their fathers. During the late 12th and early 13th centuries, heraldic emblems and devices assumed a distinctive and consistently systematic character that identified individuals, families, nobles, knights, establishments, and communities. At this time, a knight's cognizance incorporated on his personal seal also became his signature in civil transactions.

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Figure 1
Emblem, 7th Bombardment Group

Among those who played a part in the history of heraldry, the "herald" was perhaps the most important. Commissioned by the sovereign as his official representative, the herald proclaimed the edicts of the king, carried messages between opposing armies, and issued official proclamations of tournaments and the regulations that governed them. In tournaments, the cognizance that each knight displayed helped the herald distinguish among the mass of armored men. To prevent a knight from duplicating someone else's cognizance, heralds eventually compiled Rolls of Arms that listed the cognizances painted on shields and embroidered on the pennons of the medieval warrior, thereby establishing the system known as heraldry. 2

With the passage of time and technical changes in warfare, the herald became less a public servant and more a genealogist. His role focused increasingly on maintaining the Roll of Arms. By the 13th century, official (that is, recorded) cognizance began to appear on embroidered cloth over the knights' armor as well as on shields and became known as coats of arms. Later the term "coat of arms" became synonymous with the shield, its crest, and its scroll, bearing a name or motto. A description in words of armorial bearings* is a blazon written in the precise language of heraldry to indicate to a reader without an illustration of the coat of arms the exact arrangement and colors of the design on the shield, crest, or scroll. The shield (either heater shaped or circular) is used for displaying armorial bearings in Air Force Heraldry as an identifying mark for an organization. The charges, or figures, that form a coat of arms are emblazoned on the surface of the shield, called the field.

Figure 1 provides a historical example of a shield, crest, and scroll. The crest is any device displayed above the shield, and it is placed over a wreath of six skeins or twists composed of the principal metals (e.g., gold and silver) and colors of the shield. The metals and colors appear alternately in the order named in the blazon. The scroll is the third element in a military coat of arms and is usually inscribed with a motto and placed beneath the shield.

1Eugene Zieber, Heraldry in America, 2d ed. (New York: Gordon Press, 1973), p.9.
L.G. Pine, The Story of Heraldry, 2d ed., revised (London: Country Life Limited, 1963), p. 12.
*When a man bore a shield, he was said to bear the devices thereon, and such devices are accordingly called armorial bearings.



Symbols In Emblems


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Figure 2
Common Symbols

The basis of the design of an Air Force emblem involves geometric and/or illustrative visual symbols. Symbols are in common use throughout the world, as a glance at the symbols in Figure 2 illustrates. Who would not recognize the striped pole as symbolizing a barber shop or associate a grocery cart with a food market? A mortar and pestle almost universally represent a pharmacy and the three balls identify a pawn shop. These symbols are among hundreds universally recognized; they require no explanation.

Figure 3
Medical Symbol

Figure 4
Winged Caduceus

Sometimes choices are available among symbols. For example, Aesculapius, the mythical Greco-Roman god of medicine, carried a knotty wooden staff entwined with a snake (Figure 3) representing life-giving powers. This staff was adapted in 1910 for use as the insignia of the American Medical Association. The United States Air Force Medical Service and other medical groups the world over also use this staff to identify the medical profession.

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Figure 5
Yin and Yang

On the other hand, the Caduceus (Figure 4), a staff with two snakes coiled around it, was traditionally the symbol of the herald and now is the official symbol of the US Army Medical Corps, Navy Pharmacy Division, and the Public Health Service. This intertwined snake design dates back some 4,000 years to Babylon. It reappeared in Greek mythology with a pair of wings added, as Hermes' wand. In ancient Rome, messengers carried this symbol as a sign of neutrality, the Caduceus establishing their noncombatant status.

Another ancient symbol is the Yin and the Yang which, when interlocked, represent perfect unity, the universe, and eternity (Figure 5). In ancient times the Chinese believed that the world was created by spontaneous separation of the amorphous ether into heaven and earth; Yin being the one, and Yang the other. The dark shape is the female Yin, the light one the male Yang.

Other representative heraldic symbols that are commonly used appear on the following page. These examples hardly exhaust the subject. One should understand, however, that Air Force organizational emblems are not representations of actual aircraft or equipment. Instead they are geometric and/or illustrative visual concepts and design relationships that portray the characteristics and qualities with which an organization associates itself or defines its overall mission.



Air Force Symbols


An organization's emblem design should focus on the organization's primary or historical mission. Find symbols that illustrate the key word in your description. A portcullis, a chain, a geometric pattern suggesting bars, a lock, or a scale of justice can all be symbols representing security. The actual badge and gun used to defend a base are not acceptable heraldic symbols of security. The organization can also include symbols that illustrate the organization's history and that reflect the parent organization and the quality and excellence of its personnel who perform the functions. Arranging symbols in a visually interesting way is just as important to an effective design as is selecting the right symbol. Quartering a shield or a disc and placing a symbol in each quarter has become a heraldic cliché. There are hundreds of ways to devise a shield in heraldry. The designer should try to avoid the obvious, use imagination, do research, get help from a graphics shop, or ask the Army Institute of Heraldry for assistance. The elements of design, proportion, symmetry, value, and hue make your design interesting. Simple bold designs with contrast are the ones remembered best, not the overly detailed pictorial ones. Such simple designs also result in more striking and recognizable distinctive patches.

Many of us are engaged in military occupations which support the larger Air Force mission. Everyone's job is important and each organization is a vital link in the defense of the country. However, emblem design should not be all encompassing. A good design nevertheless visually depicts the organization's mission, history, and qualities, in symbolic form, so that members may wear it proudly.



Chapter 2: Organizational Emblems


A system of heraldic emblems evolved within the air arms of the allied and central powers during World War I, the first major conflict in which the newly-developed airplane became an instrument of war. On 6 April 1917, America declared war on Germany, and, shortly thereafter, Brigadier General Benjamin D. Foulois became Chief of the Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). A year later, on 6 May 1918, Foulois established the policy for insignia of aerial units, declaring that each squadron would have an official insignia painted on the middle of each side of the airplane fuselage. "The squadron will design their own insignia during the period of organizational training. The design must be submitted to the Chief of Air Service, AEF, for approval. The design should be simple enough to be recognizable from a distance." 3

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Within a red circle in perspective, long axis vertical, Uncle Sam's top hat, upper portion, blue background with white stars; middle portion, red and white stripes; brim, white; sweat band, brown; inside of hat, dark blue. (approved 15 Nov 1919 as World War I emblem; canceled 6 May 1924; reinstated 9 Jul 1942.)

Figure 6
Emblem, 94th Aero Squadron

A famous emblem used during World War I appears in Figure 6. The 94th Aero Squadron, originally composed of former members of the Lafayette Escadrille, * became the first American air service squadron to arrive on the Western Front. The hat in the ring design was selected because it symbolized Uncle Sam throwing in with the allies against the central powers. The War Department on 18 November 1919 approved the emblems of 45 aero squadrons that served in France during World War I. 4

World War II expanded the use of Air Corps insignia, with hundreds of new emblems appearing both officially and unofficially. The War Department dictated the policy by which Army Air Forces' organizations submitted emblems for approval and rejected only a few. Many organizations failed to submit their designs for approval, however, and consequently in later years members of these organizations found no approved emblem on file. 5 When the Air Force became an autonomous military service in 1947, its leaders authorized an heraldic program that sought to avoid the widespread use of unauthorized emblems.

Army Air Forces Letter 35-46 issued on 10 September 1945 established procedures for designing and submitting emblems for approval. This letter contained policy on the design, approval, and use of organizational emblems. On 1 October 1984 the Air Force heraldic program transferred officially from the Air Force Manpower and Personnel Center at Randolph AFB, Texas, to the US Air Force Historical Research Center now, Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. At the same time, USAF historians at all command levels assumed responsibility for processing emblem requests. Currently AFI 84-105, chapter 3, provides guidance for Air Force heraldry.

3Edgar S. Gorrell, History of the Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces in France, 1917-1918, on microfilm Series A, Vol 9, (AFHRA, Maxwell AFB, AL pp. 85-86).
4Ltr, Maurer Maurer to TSgt E.B. Bowyer, 31 March 1964, in RS Heraldry (AFHRA, Maxwell AFB, AL).
5For example, there are numerous letters concerning unofficial World War II emblems on file in Organizational Emblem Files, (AFHRA, Maxwell AFB, AL).
*A group of American volunteers who flew for the French before the United States of America entered World War I.



Types Of Emblems


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Figure 7
Emblem for Squadrons and Equivalent

The emblem design for units must be on a circular shaped shield or disc, as illustrated in Figure 7 (See AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.4). Units with emblems on discs include named and numbered squadrons, numbered flights, and other USAF organizations that have no headquarters component.

Those organizations in the USAF having headquarters are flag bearing organizations, known as establishments, such as groups, wings, and major commands (MAJCOM). Air Force Instruction 84-105, paragraph 3.3. specifies that a USAF flag-bearing organization should display its coat of arms (i.e., emblem design) on a modified heater-shaped shield, as shown in Figure 8. Flag-bearing organizations must order a full-size flag drawing before requisitioning an organizational flag. For more information on flag manufacture, contact Air Force Clothing, Human Systems Program Office, 311th Human Systems Wing, 700 Robbins Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19111-5096, Telephone DSN 444-3850 or (215) 737-3850.

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Figure 8
Emblems for Groups and Above
(Flag Bearing Organizations)

Since the heraldry of permanent organizations are continuous, inactivation does not affect heraldry. When an organization is activated again, it should use its previous emblem. An approved emblem should not be changed unless it fails to meet current standards of the AFI or there is a drastic mission change. Because new emblems incur considerable expenses and because heraldry is an inherited part of an organization's history, AFHRA will not lightly approve emblem changes.

Only organizations that are establishments or units are authorized emblems. Air Force entities that may not request an emblem include:

  • Headquarters squadron sections

  • Alphabetical flights of a squadron

  • Operating locations

  • Named activities

  • Staff directorates, sections, and offices

  • Air Force elements

  • Provisional units at all echelons (See AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.2.2. for guidance on display of emblems by expeditionary organizations).



Chapter 3: Designing An Air Force Emblem


In designing an emblem for an organization, the most important factors to be considered are the organization's history, its mission (such as reconnaissance, airlift, fighter, medical services, security, civil engineering, etc.), the proper symbols to be depicted in the emblem design, the placement of the symbolic elements or "charges" on the design field, and color selection. An organization may design its own emblem or it may request in submission of its emblem package to the organizational historian that the DoD executive agency for heraldry, The Institute of Heraldry (TIOH), United States Army, design the emblem. TIOH, working from the mission statement and any historical information the organization provides, will submit a choice of two or three designs to the organization for feedback, then finalize the emblem.



The Elements Of An Emblem


The numbers and letters in Figures 9 and 10 explain the various positions of the field on a shield and a disc. The numbers and letters indicate:

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1. Dexter (right-hand side of the bearer)
2. Sinister (left-hand side of the bearer)
3. Chief
4. Base
A. Dexter chief
B. Middle chief
C. Sinister chief
D. Dexter base
E. Middle base
F. Sinister base
G. Honor point
H. Fess point
I. Nombril point

Figure 9


Figure 10 


The dexter side of the shield (or disc) refers to the right hand, while the sinister side refers to the left hand side of the bearer. The different positions on the emblem field are important in preparing the blazon--the written description of the design. In heraldry, the smallest change in the position of a symbolic element (or "charge") in the design changes the entire arms. The meaning of a coat of arms with a lion in chief (at the top) differs essentially from one with a lion in base (at the bottom), and the symbol depicting the organization's mission or history faces to the right side (dexter) never to the left side (sinister) of the bearer. A description of important heraldic terms is included in the Appendix, A Glossary of Heraldic Terms.

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Figure 11
Emblem, 7th Bomb Wing

Figure 11 shows a current, approved emblem for an establishment, the 7th Bomb Wing. Notice the difference between this emblem and the historical one in Figure 1, which shows a crest, a differently shaped shield, and a different type of scroll.

The shield design should have only one scroll, located below, as shown in Figure 11. The scroll usually displays an establishment's designation (See AFI 84-05, paragraph 3.3.2.). But a wing or independent group (i.e., a group assigned to an echelon at a higher level than a wing) may choose to display its approved motto on the scroll (AFI 84-105 paragraph 3.3.3.). Generally, the wing or independent group should order a flag drawing with the motto but may use either the motto or designation as it sees fit on its patches and other emblem renditions. On the scroll of the shield, the flag-bearing organization must limit the number of characters (letters and numbers) and spaces to 36. To contrast with the flag field, the scroll must be white with a yellow border and blue lettering. When the scroll must be changed because of redesignation or motto change, the establishment should order a new flag drawing, because the flag manufacturer has to have the blue print of the new lettering to embroider the new scroll for the flag. TIOH gives no discount on the cost of the flag drawing, even though only the scroll is being changed; however, the flag manufacturer will change the scroll on the organization's existing flag for about a quarter the cost of a new flag. Contact Air Force Clothing Office in Philadelphia PA for details.

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Figure 12
Emblem, PACAF Computer Systems Squadron

The disc design for units may have either one or two scrolls. The unit designation should always appear on the bottom scroll (AFI 84-105, paragraphs 3.4.2. and 3.4.3.). Both scrolls are the same size, as outlined in AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.4.4. Figure 12, the emblem of the Pacific Air Forces Computer Systems Squadron, is an example of a disc designed with two scrolls. The unit motto "Connecting War Fighters" is on the upper scroll, leaving the lower scroll open for the unit designation.

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Figure 13
Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)

This design represents a change in policy (See AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.4.2.); consequently, one may often see a unit emblem with the motto in the lower scroll and the unit designation in the upper. As a unit with this configuration exhausts current supplies of patches and other emblem renditions, it should make the changes in the scrolls to conform to the AFI. This may be done locally, and a copy sent via history channels to the AFHRA. The typeface and type size should be as follows: All caps, Switzerland bold condensed, 36 points, except "st," "th," and "d" at the end of numbers should be 24 points. On the scroll(s) of the disc, the number of characters and spaces must not exceed 30; to accommodate this number, the scroll(s) may extend up to 120 degrees of the arc. Both must have borders for quality manufacture. The border of the disc and scroll(s) must match the color of the lettering, per AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.7.4.(e).

Emblem designs must not duplicate other emblems. On the other hand, an organization wishing to incorporate on its own emblem, an element common to its parent organization's emblem may do so. For example, consider the elements of the PACAF Computer Systems Squadron (Figure 12, above) and the Pacific Air Forces shown in Figure 13. Notice that the squadron has adopted certain elements of the PACAF emblem.



Using Colors In Emblems


The colors of an emblem often have significance but that is always secondary to the symbolism of the emblem. The colors of the Air Force, ultramarine blue and Air Force yellow, should appear in the design; the blue represents "the sky", the primary theater of Air Force operations, while Air Force yellow represents "the sun" and the excellence required of Air Force personnel. A note of caution, ultramarine blue, while it represents the sky, is not a light blue; an ultramarine blue shield or disc is fairly dark and requires charges of good contrast. A rule of thumb when assigning color to design elements is to use colors that contrast: dark on light, light on dark. Heraldry divides colors into metals -- gold (yellows) and silver (white, silver gray) -- and colors (reds, blues, greens). The cardinal rule of heraldry is no metal on metal and no color on color. The positive and negative association of twelve colors appears below for field personnel who are considering the design of organizational emblems.

RED (heraldic GULES). Positive: blood of life, boldness, Christ, courage, hardiness, liberty, magnanimity, passion, patriotism, planet Mars, sentiment, strength, valor, warmth (of fire), and zeal. Negative: anarchy, blood (spilled), danger, death throes, Satan, fire (burning), passions, revolution, war, and wounds.

ORANGE (heraldic Tenne). Positive: ambition, benevolence, earthly wisdom, endurance, fire, flames, hospitality, marriage, pride, and strength. Negative: malevolence and Satan.

GOLD (heraldic OR) [interchangeable with YELLOW]. Positive: honor, majesty (royalty), mystic aspects of the sun, riches, and wisdom. Negative: idolatry.

YELLOW (also heraldic OR). Positive: constancy, dissemination, divinity, elevation of mind, excellence, highest values, honor, illumination, intellect, intuition, justice, light, loyalty, magnanimity, riches, ripened grain, sun, supreme wisdom and wisdom. Negative: cowardice and treachery.

BROWN. Positive: the earth and lesser nobility. Negative: Barrenness and poverty.

GREEN (heraldic VERT). Positive: adaptability, auspiciousness, gladness, fertility of fields, freshness, hope, immortality, joy, love, life, nature, prosperity, sympathy, vegetation, planet Venus, wisdom, and youth. Negative: disgrace, envy, jealousy, lividness, madness, opposition, and sinisterness.

BLUE (heraldic AZURE). Positive: (light blue) calm seas, charity, cold, constancy, daylight, devotion, innocence, planet Jupiter, justice, loyalty, piety, sincerity, sky, thinking, and truth. Negative (dark blue): doubt, discomfort, night, and stormy seas.

PURPLE (heraldic PURPURE). Positive: empire, humility, jurisdiction, love of truth, loyalty, memories, planet Mercury, nostalgia, patience, power, rank, royalty, sacrifice, and spirituality. Negative: martyrdom, mourning, penitence, regret, resignation, and sublimation.

BLACK (heraldic SABLE). Positive: constancy, dignity, determination, divine doctrine, fertilized land, humility, mighty, night, prudence, regality, planet Saturn, sophistication, sorrow, and starkness. Negative: death, despair, evilness, grief, morbidity, nothingness, penitence, sickness, sin, and void.

GRAY (heraldic ARGENT). Positive: discretion, humility, maturity, penitence, renunciation, and retrospection. Negative: barrenness, depression, egoism, grief, indifference, inertia, neutralization, old age, and winter.

SILVER (heraldic ARGENT). Positive: charity, chastity, clear conscience, faith, moon, innocence, purity, and test of truth. Negative: blank, cold, ghostly, spectral, and void.

WHITE (also heraldic ARGENT). Positive: daylight, innocence, perfection, purity, truth, and wisdom. Negative: same as for silver above.

Note: GRAY, SILVER, and WHITE are all ARGENT and interchangeable.



Chapter 4: Processing Air Force Emblems


The commander of an active organization desiring a new emblem or the change of an old emblem should consult with the wing or MAJCOM historians to ensure compliance with USAF requirements and to avoid delays in the approval process. Parent organizations of units scheduled to be activated, or existing units that expect to be redesignated, must submit to the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) the DAF numbered letter and/or the command special order authorizing the action. AFI 84-105, Chapter 3, Paragraph 3.6. should serve as the authoritative guide in the processing of Air Force emblems. The information in this chapter of the "Guide to Air Force Heraldry" supplements the AFI. Organizations seeking a new or redesigned emblem should always follow the chain of command, going first to the wing, then the MAJCOM, historian for consultation, guidance, and endorsement of the proposed emblem.



Base Level Action


  1. Organization submits a proposed emblem design to the wing historian's office.

  2. Since each organization will pay for its emblem from its own funds, the emblem design submitted must be accompanied by a Department of Defense Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request (DD Form 448) for the proper amount.

  3. Wing historian reviews the emblem package and verifies that the request includes:

    1. A cover letter signed by the organization's commander. If the emblem designer holds a copyright to the design, the request for approval must have attached a signed copyright release.

    2. Department of Defense Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request (DD Form 448) certified by the organization's accounting and finance office.

    3. A copy of the emblem design in primary colors, and if possible, a diskette of the proposed emblem in any of the following formats:

      • Adobe Illustrator (.ai; .eps)

      • Corel Draw 5 (.cdr)

      • IBM PIF (.pif)

      • Macintosh PICT (.pct)

      • Paintbrush (.pcx)

      • TIFF Bitmap (.tga; .vda; .icb; .vst)

      • Windows Bitmap (.bmp) in 256 color, 150 .dpi

      • Windows Metafile (.wmf)

      • Word Perfect Graphic (.wpg)

    4. Ensure that the design:


      (1) Contains the colors Air Force yellow and ultramarine blue.

      (2) Is limited to six colors within the disc or shield(including black and white).

      (3) Is dignified and in good taste.

      (4) Contains elements that are either vertical, horizontal, crossed, or face to the right (emblem left).

      (5) Contains no more than three elements (see Glossary for definition of an element). Does not contain very small, detailed art work that will be rendered unrecognizable in reductions to patch size. The most effective patch designs are simple and bold with high color contrasts.

      (6) Is symbolic of history, accomplishments, and mission.

      (7) Has no specific types of aircraft, missiles, or other equipment.

      (8) Has no symbols of a morbid character, games of chance, caricatures, or cartoon-type characters.

      (9) Has no maps or outlines of specific geographic landmarks.

      (10) Has no numbers or letters within the design area.

      (11) Does not duplicate any known, existing emblems.

    6. Two copies of a statement (one page maximum) explaining the significance of the design and (if desired) motto.


      (1) The emblem significance statement explains what the emblem's symbolic elements portray or signify to the organization's personnel. Each element in the design must have a meaning, representing either the organization's history or mission. For different organizations, identical elements will have entirely different meanings. A stylized aircraft symbol may represent the flying mission in the emblem of a tactical squadron, and the same symbol in a supply or maintenance squadron may represent support rendered to the flying mission.

      (2) An emblem motto must not infringe on registered trademarks such as a corporate slogan, be in good taste, and avoid the use of words that may be offensive. The motto should not be more than 36 letters and spaces for shields or 24 letters and spaces for discs. No commas, dashes, or apostrophes can be used. In years past, the motto was almost always written in Latin. Although English is now preferred, other languages may be used (See AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.7.3).

    8. The name and DSN telephone and telefax number of the emblem project officer.

  4. The wing historian either endorses the request or returns it to the organization for corrections, if needed.

  5. If endorsed, the historian forwards the emblem package to the MAJCOM, SOA, FOA reviewing/endorsing history office.

  6. The history office at higher echelon reviews the emblem package using the same criteria as the wing historian, and either endorses it to AFHRA/RSO, or returns it for correction.



Guidance & Administration


All requests for emblems and flag drawings are processed through command channels (history offices) to AFHRA/RSO, Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6424. The history offices at each echelon above the organization requesting the emblem review can return the package to the originator for reaccomplishment, but the reasons for doing so must be clearly identified. The MAJCOM/HO must endorse the emblem before AFHRA will process it. In all cases the AFHRA will support the decisions of the MAJCOM/HO on the design or disapproval of a proposed emblem. When all requirements are met, AFHRA sends the emblem package to TIOH for final rendition. TIOH will standardize designs for correct sizes, colors, and manufacturing needs; improve elements, if necessary; provide blazon or description and manufacturing notes including cable numbers for full or subdued insignia (patches); insure heraldic correctness; and prepare paintings for patches and drawings for flags. AFHRA receives the final emblem painting within 60 to 90 days of sending it to TIOH and forwards the package (except for flag drawings) to MAJCOM/HOs for distribution to the requesting organization. No organization should order patches, decals, or other renditions until it receives the final emblem package.

Frequently, organizations ask why they should pay for emblem packages when they have good graphics capabilities to design and draw their own emblems. Several good reasons exists to justify the expense of an officially procured emblem package. First, AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.2. requires that an organization use an officially approved and registered emblem. Such an emblem can only be obtained by following the process outlined in the AFI. Second, having a registered emblem provides continuity and standardization in Air Force Heraldry, particularly in an organization when it undergoes personnel change or organizational changes, such as station change, redesignation, or inactivation and subsequent activation. Through all such changes, the organization retains its emblem, with its associated history and symbolism. Third, a registered emblem package provides the organization with a digital copy of the emblem, the approval letter, finished line drawing, subdued color rendition, description including significance and color codes, and, if ordered, flag drawing for an establishment or manufacturing drawing for a unit. Copies of all these are held at the MAJCOM and at AFHRA as backup, in case the emblem package is misplaced at the organization.

AFHRA has observed that units often have quality control problems in procuring patches. The best way to overcome such problems is to include a request for a Manufacturing Drawing in the proposed emblem package. This drawing gives the specifications for correctly manufacturing patches, including the size, which is based on MAJCOM patch specification of 3 and 1/16th inches high and 3 inches wide. TIOH provides such a drawing, for a reasonable extra fee. Some MAJCOMs require that every unit submitting an emblem package order the Manufacturing Drawing, and AFHRA strongly encourages all other units to do so.



When An Organization Inactivated or Moves Without Personnel or Equipment


Every organization's emblem belongs only to that organization and cannot be used by any other organization. Regardless of name changes through redesignations, the emblem remains with its original organization. When an Air Force permanent organization with an approved emblem is scheduled to be inactivated, the flag or guidon and other heraldic items held at local level must be included in the organization's History Box, so that these items can be reissued the next time the organization activates. See AFI 84-103, "Museum Systems," for further guidance on compiling the History Box. When an Air Force organization with an approved emblem is scheduled to move without personnel or equipment but will remain in the same command, it should send its emblem and lineage and honors history files to the MAJCOM history office; that office will pass the files to the reassembled organization at its new location. If the organization is transferred to another command, the heraldic files should be forwarded to AFHRA/RSO, which will process the files to the gaining command.



Requests For Emblem Data


The wing or organizational historian retains a heraldic file of each assigned organization's registered emblem and will provide copies if the information is not available from the unit itself. The MAJCOM history office also retains a heraldic file on each registered emblem of subordinate organizations to answer requests for emblem information. Requests for unit emblems from outside the command may be referred directly to AFHRA/RSO. AFHRA generally treats unofficial requests for emblems as it does all other unofficial inquiries. The inquiry is placed in a queue and answered in turn. Usually, several months are required to answer unofficial inquiries, but veterans and their organizations receive priority. On the other hand, AFHRA lacks the resources to answer requests involving extensive research, such as those sometimes submitted by patch collectors. Such requesters are generally referred to published sources and commercial enterprises.


Air Force Heraldry II




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