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Symbolism and the 9th Reconnaissance Wing

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing crest features the gold and green of the former Army Air Service, a central wavy line denoting the Rio Grande River and early service in Mexico, four black crosses in remembrance of the four major offensives in WWI. Finally, the phrase “Semper Paratus” meaning Always Ready. The official Air Force use of the phrase dates back to 1924. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey M. Schultze)

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing crest features the gold and green of the former Army Air Service, a central wavy line denoting the Rio Grande River and early service in Mexico, four black crosses in remembrance of the four major offensives in WWI. Finally, the phrase “Semper Paratus” meaning Always Ready. The official Air Force use of the phrase dates back to 1924. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey M. Schultze)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The average American encounters 362 advertisements per day, according to a 2014 Media Dynamics study. Symbols and logos are an integral part of our modern experience from traffic signs to store signage and in the case of Beale Air Force Base, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing Crest. The distinctive emblem looms large around Beale and is a prominent example of Air Force unit art.

Additionally, much in the way that advertising logos aim for consumers to buy into the identity of a company or product, the Air Force unit Insignias help Airmen identify with their organizations and the mission of those organizations.

In contrast to advertising, the unit insignia offers something else.  According to Richard Rodrigues Beale Air Force Base Historian, "The insignia is to improve morale and esprit de corps.  We use the unit imagery because we want teams that identify with each other, believe in each other, and support each other."

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing crest includes the Army Air Service colors of gold and green, recognizing the roots of the unit prior to the modern Air Force. It also features a central wavy line denoting the Rio Grande River and early service in Mexico. Prominently featured are four black crosses representing the four European offensives during WWI that the unit participated in. Finally the Latin phrase "Semper Paratus" meaning "Always Ready" which official use dates back to 1924. This phrase was also officially adopted by the United States Coast Guard in 1927 through their official marching song of the same name according to the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

According to the Institute of Heraldry website, the early purpose of unit insignia was so soldiers in the 11th and 12th Centuries that were covered in heavy armor could identify friend from foe. Allies and enemies alike agreed that a system of identification was necessary in order to be effective in combat.

This system of identification continues today. In addition to providing easy visual recognition unit insignias offer historical pride for the wearer.

"Over time you can build upon a history of accomplishment and achievement, often times in combat situations or where there is a very difficult task or mission to perform, Rodrigues said. " The end result is that people take pride in being successful at executing difficult endeavors as a team. "