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320th Missile Squadron makes change to emblem

  • Published
  • By Glenn S. Robertson
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Earlier this year, the 320th Missile Squadron changed their patch emblem to better support the effort of diversity and inclusivity, moving from the “Thunder Chief” logo approved in 1965 to the “Moby Dick” imagery of the squadron’s World War II heritage.

Though the original image was intended to honor the Native American warrior spirit while also highlighting the shared history and heritage of Native American and U.S. military forces in the area, according to Jeremiah Foster, 90th Missile Wing Historian, squadron leadership believed that a change was appropriate to better reflect the history and heritage of the 320 MS while eliminating the possibility for the logo to cause offense.

The new patch hearkens back to the squadron’s World War II history and shows deference to their roots with a large whale on a blue background.

“The whale pays homage to the 320th Missile Squadron heritage from World War II, when the squadron was known as the 320th Bombardment Squadron with the nickname ‘Moby Dick’,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Linton, 320 MS commander. “The redesign of the original squadron emblem from World War II also contains a blast from the whale’s blowhole to allow us to utilize the color red, representing our current squadron nickname of ‘Big Red’.”

The prior patch depicted a Plains Indian in ceremonial headdress, holding a spear in a pose as to strike, with an outline of a missile surrounding the spear, while riding a bucking horse. Though there is no evidence of disrespectful intent, the depiction did cause concern and raised questions regarding a perceived denigration of Native Americans. Foster believes that the patch was originally intended to honor F.E. Warren’s history, rather than the squadron’s.

“The emblem’s depiction of a Native American warrior has caused some question as to its intent and though there is no documentation that details the exact historical context of the depiction, the significance statement included with the emblem appears to signify an effort to wed the heritage of the base with that of the unit,” said Foster. “That statement purports that the Plains Indian signifies the unit’s swiftness and courage, while the spear and the missile suggest the advancement of airborne weapons.”

Lt. Col. Katie Mack, a prior commander of the 320 MS, started the process of changing the emblem in 2021, and Linton saw the process through. The U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry approved the patch in June 2023.

“What brought this on was an acknowledgement that we didn’t have an historical basis for the previous patch, which was the Thunder Chief,” said Linton. “Additionally, the main driving factor for it was how the Thunder Chief was being portrayed in areas outside the unit, as there were several negative connotations associated with it. While the Thunder Chief imagery on its own is not negative, how it was being portrayed outside of the unit was not good.”

Though the intent was to foster an environment of inclusion, Foster emphasized that it is very likely that there was a desire to honor the imagery of the Native American warrior, rather than disrespect it.

“The military prowess and courage of Native American warriors, fighting both for and against U.S. military forces has long been revered by U.S. military members and leaders,” said Foster. “As suggested by the significance statement, the spear appears to be representative of the evolution of missile weapons—particularly exemplifying the skill with which they were wielded by Native warriors and how their current most evolved iteration, in the form of nuclear missiles, is skillfully wielded by the current unit. Just as for the tribes of the Great Plains the spear represented a key aspect of their military power, so does the missile represent that for the current unit.”