Friday, October 19, 2012

Birds at Large: Military Unit Insignia


While killing some time last week in the Bangor, Maine airport I noticed a wall covered in stickers representing different military units.  There's a large military presence at the Bangor airport: it's often the first or last stop in the US for troops going to or coming from overseas.  I was fascinated with the different unit's insignias.  Here's a wide shot of the wall:

There was a wide variety of insignia styles and images.  They were by turns serious, boastful, funny, irreverent, bawdy, crude, odd and impressive.  Some had funny pop-culture references:




Some were just weird:

Others, as you may have guessed by now, included birds.  Bald Eagles were most frequently represented:





Some plumage eccentricities in the top and bottom, but I'll forgive them for national heroes.  In others, birds were more comically represented:


I was struck by the repeated use of pelicans to represent troop airlift units.  I love the imagery of the pelican with the troops in his bill in the top photo here:


I was intrigued by one sticker showing a parrot.  It obviously wasn't a North American species, but there was no other identifying information on the insignia other than some non-English words.
Some Googling revealed that this is the insignia for a British unit, No. 322 Squadron RAF, made up of Dutch soldiers.  The words "Niet praten maar doer" mean "Actions, not words," and the mystery parrot is the unit's mascot, Polly Grey.

Finally, in a field of either screaming eagles or machine-gunning ducks, this insignia stood out:


An Indigo Bunting??  What's that about?  The 103rd Civil Support Team, based out of Alaska, has the thankless job of being the first team on the ground after a suspected WMD attack to facilitate the response.  I can't figure out why they're using the bunting, though I do find a reference to the unit's "fleet of blue vehicles." 

As far as I'm concerned, military units can use whatever birds they want - ornithologically-correct or not - as long as they keep doing what they're doing.  Thanks, military!



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