ARLINGTON, Virginia – Seals are the oldest form of heraldic insignia and have evolved over time to represent monarchies, families, and organizations. As a military design, seals represent the common identity of members of military organizations.
As the nation’s oldest armed force, the National Guard, is no exception. In April 2022, the National Guard Bureau and the Army National Guard updated the appearance of their seals, and the Air National Guard established its first.
“The seals symbolize a shared organizational identity and should serve as reminders to our Soldiers and Airmen that they belong to a world-class military organization – one that fights and wins our nation’s wars, responds to emergencies on the home front and builds global partnerships,” said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
To honor the bureau’s history, the National Guard Bureau seal reverted its background color from flag blue to its original 1921 dark blue.
“Gen. Hokanson launched a parallel effort to update and redefine the Army Guard’s seal and establish the first Air National Guard seal to create a singular representation of the National Guards of the States, Territories, and District of Columbia,” said Dr. Richard Clark, Director of the NGB History Office.
“Something was needed,” he said, “that spoke to both the shared relationship of the Army and Air National Guards and recognized their separate service. Thus, both designs include the minuteman, but both designs are also distinct.”
The Army National Guard Seal features the Concord Minuteman statue in white and dark blue and reflects the colors of George Washington’s Continental Army during the American Revolution. As with the previous seal, the new one features a dark blue designation band with scarlet trim and the words “Army National Guard” and five stars in white inscribed on the trim.
The Air National Guard Seal also features the minuteman statue in white and dark blue and two white fighter jets with the colors of the Air Force: ultramarine blue, alluding to the sky as the main theater of operations, and yellow, representing the sun and the excellence required of all Airmen. The seal has a white designation band featuring dark blue letters with the words “Air National Guard,” along with five stars.
While the seals will be found in official military spaces as they always have, an original function of heraldry was to help identify Soldiers and their units on the battlefield, said Clark. “The updated and new seals do not affect uniforms, and Airmen will continue to wear the shield patch of the Air National Guard of the United States.”
NGB is working on a directive and a plan to replace the old versions of the Army National Guard Seal and the Air National Guard of the United States Emblem with the updated seals in public spaces, letterhead, and briefing templates.
Today, as battlefields become more complex, heraldry generally serves to encourage Guardsmen to recognize their shared membership and to help non-Guard members easily recognize the service with which they are engaged.
“Military heraldry can speak volumes to communities about the National Guard,” Clark observed. “It allows non-military members to readily identify one’s service affiliation while giving Soldiers and Airmen something of which to be proud.”