Air Force Brass Order Removal of All Offensive, Non-Inclusive Patches, Mottos and Emblems

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Air Force emblems
Bill Butler, Air Combat Command deputy command historian, makes edits to the annual history report at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Jan. 24, 2017. (Tristan Biese/U.S. Air Force)

Commanders have until Feb. 21 to review their units' emblems, morale patches, mottos, nicknames, coins and other heraldry and insignia and remove any that are racist, sexist or derogatory, the Air Force announced Tuesday.

Starting at the squadron level and moving up, commanders must abolish symbols that are derogatory "to any race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age or disability status to ensure an inclusive and professional environment," according to a memo from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, head of the Space Force.

"It is critical for the Department of the Air Force to embody an environment of dignity, respect and inclusivity for all airmen and guardians," the memo states, according to a service release. "Our core values demand we hold ourselves to high standards and maintain a culture of respect and trust in our chain of command."

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Air Force Instruction 84-105, last updated in 2019, directs units on how to best recognize their organizational lineage, honors and heraldry. Commanders should consult the AFI -- which emphasizes that symbols and language should be original, "in good taste and non-controversial" -- and their local historian, the release states.

Disparaging language and symbolism "ostracizes our teammates, undermining unit cohesion and impeding our mission readiness and success," according to the memo. "Our diversity of experience, culture, demographics and perspectives is a force multiplier and essential to our success in this dynamic global environment. ... We must ensure all our airmen and guardians are valued and respected."

It was not immediately clear whether the latest memo applies to personal call signs -- typically given to fighter pilots. In 2019, the Navy created a new process for approving and reviewing pilots' call signs after two Black aviators at an F/A-18 Hornet training squadron in Virginia filed complaints alleging racial bias in the unit.

The Air Force has had its own issues with call signs: A female airman was given an inappropriate call sign by fellow airmen during a drinking game in 2018, which came to light as officials looked into accounts of a separate threatening incident at the 47th Flying Training Wing at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas.

Last year, the Air Force announced it had removed all "male-only references" in its official song, known as "Wild Blue Yonder," which is traditionally sung before service events. In September, the service encouraged airmen to submit ideas for improvements to uniforms, appearance standards, badges and patches, and even jewelry. Both efforts are aimed at creating a more inclusive culture among the ranks.

The memo on symbols comes the same week as the service's latest initiative to track lesser disciplinary actions by demographic to ensure impartiality.

The service said Wednesday that it will collect data on how airmen and Space Force guardians who receive administrative counseling, admonishments or reprimands are treated, including a comparison based on rank, age, gender, race and ethnicity.

-- Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this report.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: Air Force Will Now Collect Demographic, Rank Data on Nonjudicial Punishments

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