[Webmaster’s Note: USAF article originally appearing on the Edwards Air Force Base website, reposted here in its entirety.]
Edwards squadrons create history through heraldry
By Laura Mowry, Staff Writer / Published March 27, 2012
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — In preparation for upcoming base structural changes, three squadrons from the 95th Medical Group have begun the design process to create new heraldry, which will both represent and unite the individuals belonging to the 95th Aerospace Medical Squadron, 95th Medical Operations Squadron, and the 95th Medical Support Squadron.
The heraldic design involves the emblem, an optional unit motto and symbolism that identifies and represents a unit. The symbols and colors incorporated into each unit’s heraldry convey the meaning and symbology of the unit’s heritage and mission.
Under the guidelines of the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB, the activation of new units permit the design and creation heraldry that encompasses unit history, accomplishments and mission if the units do not inherit existing heraldry.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be handed an opportunity to create the symbolism that will represent our squadron for an eternity. The work involved will be a unit effort, and that effort will be enjoyed and respected for future generations of Airmen that are assigned to our squadron,” said Lt. Col. Jerry Harvey, 95th MDSS commander. “When I’m a grandfather, I will share this experience with my grandchildren as one of the most memorable moments in my proud service.”
The unique opportunity also brings about difficult challenges during the design process. All emblems must adhere to strict guidelines and be approved by the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
According to Dr. Stephanie Smith, Air Force Flight Test Center historian, approved emblems must meet strict guidelines. For example, they must contain no more than six colors, with two of the colors, Ultramarine Reflex Blue and Air Force Yellow, being required as they are the colors of the Air Force. Additionally, the number of elements per emblem is restricted to three.
Air Force Instruction 84-105 prohibits any images that are copyrighted, referring to gambling, morbid in nature, or cartoons from being displayed on emblems. Any images depicting specific equipment, aircraft, or geography are also restricted.
“The purpose of Air Force heraldry is to promote camaraderie and esprit de corps, which works best when it meets certain standards, uses timeless heraldic symbolism, and isn’t readily changed,” said Smith. “Heraldry is an important part of military culture, and military members identify closely with their unit heraldry. It symbolizes their belonging to something greater than themselves.”
Smith works closely with units entitled to design new heraldry to ensure that all requirements are met and in compliance with the high standards of the Air Force Historical Research Agency the first time heraldry is reviewed.
“The most difficult piece for me is the unknown and that will occur when the design goes to the Air Force Historical Agency for review and approval,” said Harvey. “By that time several hours will have been invested by many people in the creation of the patch. If it is approved without question, that would be awesome. If some part must be altered and changed, it will be difficult to go back and alter something that the unit feels represents them and is perfect in their eyes.”
Although the squadrons have begun the design process for the new heraldry, they may not submit their final design and symbolism for approval to the Air Force Historical Research Agency until after the base-wide structural changes occur.
“The 95th Medical Group is leaning forward and making the necessary preparations for the upcoming transition. We want to make sure that we never miss a beat. The mission has always and will always come first,” said Col. Keith Donaldson, 95th MDG commander. “Our mission is to provide quality care to all beneficiaries at Edwards, regardless of what our patches look like.”