First to Defend

  • Published
  • By Mr. Timothy Sandland
  • 102nd Intelligence Wing
Military heraldry has been in use for thousands of years. As early as the 12th century, standards-bearing symbols have been used to identify individuals of note, military units and alliances between families and clans. The symbolism on these emblems were used to identify friend from foe, and many times, to document history through designs and symbols of significance.

In modern times, heraldry continues. In the wing particularly, we are all familiar with the Air Force Symbol, the emblem for the Air National Guard and that of the 102nd Intelligence Wing. Some emblems predate the Air Force itself – the familiar Seagull that represents the 101st Intelligence Squadron comes to mind – having been designed and approved in the early 1920’s and still in use today – the oldest emblem of its kind in the Air Force.

As Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff said in 2016, “Our service culture and traditions manifest themselves in the squadron because our Airmen most readily identify with this core fighting unit. Squadrons are the engines of innovation and esprit de corps. “

Concepts like culture, tradition and esprit de corps – the contribution of a squadron’s emblem is a representation of these values and should not be discounted.

In mid-2015, a number of 102nd Security Forces Squadron Defenders started talking about possible design ideas for an emblem of their own. Many ideas were passed back and forth across the table.

The concept of design that persisted was one that tied the relationship of the modern-day Air National Guard to the earliest of American militias in the Plymouth Colony some four centuries ago. That defense force protected colonists from the very first days on this continent, long before the talk of revolution and the birth of a nation.

Of the emblem’s clear inspiration by those early defenders, Chief Master Sgt. Marc Vercellone, 102nd Security Forces Manager said this, “That militia was the ‘first to defend’ the settlement, and by extension - the new nation.” He went on to say, “Here we are, 398 years later doing the same thing on a much grander scale. Not only defending the colony (state) as we did on 9/11, the 2015 Boston Marathon and countless other locations world-wide; and defending the principles this nation was founded on globally as a part of the Air Force team.”

Breaking down the squadron’s new emblem into its most basic parts, one will find familiar themes.

The silhouette of Paul Revere, riding a horse rampant, on his midnight mission to warn of the advance of the British. The silhouette represents strength and freedom without restraint. It further alludes to the third Security Forces General Order: “I will sound the alarm in case of disorder or emergency.”

His enflamed lantern in hand, a rendering of one on display in the Pilgrim Hall Museum that once belonged to Capt. Myles Standish, military adviser for the Plymouth Colony. The lantern represents Defensor Fortis, “Defenders of the Force,” the guiding light that leads the way forward.

Above, thirteen stars in Air Force yellow represent the original 13 colonies with a single large star symbolizing Massachusetts. The motto, “First to Defend” above the emblem is fitting recognition to those who served to protect this region, both in the Colonial era and in the American Revolution – a tradition that continues to this day.

The driving force behind the design, package and submission was Master Sgt. Nicholas Giammarco.

“Sergeant Giammarco not only designed the emblem, he also did the coordination leg work with the ANG and AF Historical Offices, and ultimately got the package together for submission to the Institute of Heraldry.” said Vercellone. “After a three to four month wait as it went through the approval process, our design was approved and is now the official emblem of our squadron.”

Culture, tradition, esprit de corps… All represented by a single image that also reveals the history and lineage of today’s defenders.

Perhaps the old idiom is true – A picture IS worth a thousand words.

The Guard provides trained and ready forces as the primary combat reserve of the Army and the Air Force, such as the dedicated Airmen of the 102nd Security Forces Squadron. On any given day, the National Guard has approximately 18,000 Soldiers and Airmen mobilized in support of combatant command missions overseas. Since 9/11, National Guard members have deployed more than 850,000 times to locations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, the Balkans, Guantanamo Bay, and the Sinai.