Squadron Patch History

1958     Squadron Organizational Emblems

The history of USAFA Cadet Squadron Organizational Emblems (commonly known as squadron patches) is sparse. The first examples of any insignia associated with the squadrons appeared in the 1958 yearbook “Final,” published one year before the Class of 1959 graduated. Each of the eight cadet squadrons had an active duty unit sponsor. Initially the sponsor unit number corresponded with the Cadet Squadron number, so that the CS01 sponsor was the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, the CS02 sponsor was the 2nd Bomb Wing, etc. The insignia depicted in this yearbook (shown below) appear to be artistic interpretations of the sponsor’s official organizational emblems.










None Depicted











Unofficial Squadron Emblems

In the very early years, prior to the adoption of official squadron emblems, many squadrons developed their own unofficial insignia as an informal means of identification, for unit morale and cohesion, or to project a particular theme or personality. These informal insignia were not permitted on any uniform items, including the athletic jacket, as “it was just not considered military" (Hector Negroni, Class of 1961). However, they were used on a variety of informal items, to include beer mugs and especially cadet bathrobes, which were frequently adorned with a variety of patches, rank insignia, etc.

1962     Initial Organizational Emblem Design

At the start of the 1961-1962 academic year, the process of official squadron organizational emblem design was initiated for the 24 Cadet Squadrons then in place. Approval was vested in the Heraldry Office, Headquarters, USAF, Washington, D.C. There were strict guidelines as to what was permitted. This letter (Right) from September, 1961, describes some of those standards and guidelines, although it leaves open the option for deviation, with adequate justification. According to the letter, the goal was to have all designs approved and in place by graduation 1962.

"…we feel they should reflect a serious purpose and should not bear cartoon-type designs. They must be pictorial-type emblems as outlined in AFR 900-3, and we prefer that they do not bear letters or numerals in the design area, because this detracts from the design and gives a commercial appearance…"

1976     Wing Heritage Committee

Between about 1976-1978, the Wing Heritage Committee compiled a squadron patch history, covering then current and past patches, with the best information available at the time:

[Official] Patches were first worn at the Academy in the 1961-1962 time frame. Since those first patches appeared, many have gone through several major changes, while the majority have remained remarkably stable. A quick glance through this book will allow the reader to form his own opinion as to why. Those that have been stable provide a link between those cadets currently wearing the patch and all those graduates who have worn it in the past.

This work began as a survey to determine which patches were current and what the symbolism behind them was. It developed into an attempt to capture the heritage of each patch that was ever worn at USAFA. The first pictures of squadron patches appeared in the 1965 edition of Polaris. Prior to this edition, there is no way to place the patches in time other than through the memory of graduates. The Committee had to assume that a patch appearing in the 1965 Polaris was the original patch used by that squadron.

Much of the symbolism behind each patch rests solely in the memory of the designer. A few squadrons had short summaries of their patches, but all lacked sufficient depth to be useful. Some symbolism was added by the graduates who wrote to the Committee. The remainder of the symbolism is interpreted by the Heritage Committee. The result is, we believe, a realistic and concise summary of the significance of each patch.     

1987     Wing Heritage Committee Update

In 1987 2nd Lieutenant Timothy Matson updated the Wing Heritage Committee history to reflect the status of the patches at the time. He noted that each squadron’s section of the 1975 Polaris included a picture of its patch and a brief explanation of its significance. However he also noted that descriptions in the yearbook often differed from those originally compiled by the Wing Heritage Committee:

"Anyone researching the meaning of a particular patch, keep in mind that no official record has been maintained about the significance of the patch’s designs. Most of the significances in this book are from word of mouth, so use good judgment when researching the significance of any of the patch’s designs."     

Individual Squadron Patch Histories


1. Terms:

Design: A unit's proposed sketch for an emblem.

Emblem: The officially approved colored artwork for a unit.

Patch: a uniform item created from the emblem.

2. The “Description” and “Significance” narratives on the individual history pages are taken directly from the Wing Heritage Committee documents, lightly edited for accuracy or style. 

3. The “History” is based on a combination of the Wing Heritage Committee narrative and original research. 

4. Based on documentation that initiated the creation process in the fall of 1961, it is assumed the first year a patch was used (for Squadrons 1-24) was 1962, unless documentation or personal recollection fixes a different date. 

5. For Squadrons 25-40, the date of first use of a squadron patch is assumed to be the year after squadron activation, which allowed for the creative and approval process to run its course, and coincides with its first appearance in Polaris.

6. The primary reference for patch timeline usage is the Polaris yearbook. Starting with the 1965 edition, patches are usually displayed with the squadron or graduate entries, generally fixing their usage in time. 

This icon indicates the year(s) a particular patch appears in  Polaris.

7. Personal Recollections between 1990-2002 were culled from the archives of Special Collections. Recollections from 2019 and later were the result of direct appeals via telephone, email, or U.S. Mail.

8. On the individual history pages, clicking on most of the patches opens a full-sized graphic in another window.



29 March 1974

Dodo Looks at
Squadron Patches