New MCIC seals boast heraldry, tradition

20 Oct 2011 | Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

On Oct. 1, Marine Corps Installations East, West and Pacific now fall under the newly-instituted Marine Corps Installations Command, located at the Installations and Logistics Department of Headquarters Marine Corps. As such, the regional commands now answer to one head authority responsible for all installations with the intent of streamlining the regions’ communication and effectiveness toward the Marine Corps mission.

Among the multitude of changes implemented in the MCIEAST, MCIWEST and MCIPAC restructuring, one such alteration is that of the various commands’ representing emblems. However, acquiring new seals for the regions take more than adding an extra letter in the design; each minute part of a seal represents something about its respective command.

“Seals have to meet certain requirements including size, measurement and color for every single seal that's produced,” said Capt. Kendra Hardesty, media officer with the Division of Public Affairs, HQMC. “The difference between heraldry (seals) and a logo essentially boils down to standardization and quality control.  The elements of heraldry include research, design, development, standardization, quality control, and other services which are fundamental to the creation and custody of official heraldic items.”

Essentially, to safeguard against the usage of heraldic seals for other than their intended purposes, the designs are built from the ground up utilizing symbols and colors relevant to the command it is made for.

“Heraldry came about in the 11th and 12th centuries because armor covered soldiers' faces and it was difficult to identify them,” said Hardesty. “Without being able to see one another well enough to tell friend from foe, allies and enemies alike agreed that a system of identification was necessary in order to be effective in combat.”

This tradition was abandoned when the founding fathers of the United States banished the honors, titles and privileges of England. However, in 1918, then-President Woodrow Wilson tasked the War Department with instituting an organization that was responsible for designing the military’s various insignias and seals to combat the wide range of elaborate symbols being used. From that, the Institute of Heraldry aboard Fort Belvoir, Va., was established, providing heraldic seal support to the United States military.

“We design seals for all branches of the Department of Defense as well as all civilian agencies within the federal government,” said Charles Mugno, director of the IOH. “We study the commands we are making designing seals for and include symbolism relevant to that command’s history and mission.”

The new MCICOM and its three regional commands’ seals are radically different from their former ones. Originally, MCIEAST’s seal solely featured the Marine Corps emblem and the five states with bases it presided over. The seal now features more Marine Corps themes as well as well as representations of the original U.S. territories.

The noncommissioned officer and mameluke swords are crossed behind a red shield divided into four sections, each region’s seal containing one of those sections colored blue, signifying the command’s area. Above the shield the Eagle, Globe and Anchor sits atop a turned scarlet and gold rope, A wheel with 13 spokes outlined with 13 gold stars represent the unique insignia worn by Marines assigned to the Quartermaster General of the Marine Corps prior to World War II, the specific number of the two representing the early 13 colonies.

“Heraldic seals of today carry ancient battlefield traditions and meanings for the organizations they stand for,” said Mugno. “It is a well established art form that, if devoid of the organization’s name, the seal could be researched to reveal the command it represents.”

The sole differences between each of the regions’ seals are those of the individual east, west and pacific names as well as the right, left and bottom sections of the seal colored blue to represent the regions’ locations.

As the MCICOM structure takes its presiding place over the various worldwide installations of the Marine Corps, emblazoned on each command’s pedestal rests a seal representing not only each regions’ support to the Marine Corps mission, but a thread of history that bolsters the Corps spirit.

“Seals allow for members to feel a sense of esprit and camaraderie for an organization, from the top officer to the new (privates first class),” said Mugno.