817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron Patch History

CBI Insignia 817th EAS Insignia
(color version)
817th EAS Insignia
(desert version)

Ed: I recently received emails from BGen Blaine Holt and Lt Col J. Scot Heathman with an offer of detailed information about the origin and design of the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (817 EAS) patch, modeled after the CBI patch.

Lt Col Heathman whetted my appetite with this note: "I ran across the CBI page and noticed there's a little history of the new 817 EAS patch. I know how and why it was designed because myself and my squadron commander at the time designed it specifically for the Incirlik Detachment. If you'd like to know more contact me. Credit for the design goes to Brig Gen Blaine Holt and Lt Col J. Scot Heathman. It was designed by us and approved by the Air Force Heritage office in 2005. The Airmen of the 16th Airlift Squadron out of Charleston, SC were the first to wear it operationally while deployed from Oct 2005 - Mar 2006 during Operations IRAQI and ENDURING FREEDOM. Let me know if you want to know more about its origins and design."

How could I refuse such an offer? So here is the story of the design and use of the 817th EAS patch:

817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (817 EAS) Patch History

The original creators of the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron patch (modeled after the famous CBI patch originally designed in 1942 by Brig. General Frank Dorn) were then Commander, 16th Airlift Squadron Lt Col Blaine Holt and Capt J. Scot Heathman. Currently, Brig Gen Blaine Holt serves as the Deputy United States Military Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Lt Col J. Scot Heathman serves as Chief, Senior Leader Management at Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

The 16th Airlift Squadron out of Charleston AFB, SC deployed to the Middle East and various stage locations on 26 October 2005 and redeployed 27 February 2006. At that time, AMC still deployed aircrew forces via legacy "stage" operations with oversight by an Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (EAS) stretched between multiple operating locations and nearly entirely dedicated to administrative and command and control functions.

When the 16th deployed to its Headquarters location at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey (outside of Adana, Turkey) they were asked to setup and maintain several stage locations with just over 100 personnel. With the Headquarters at Incirlik, the 16th (now in theater known as the 817 EAS) was directly responsible for all C-17 airlift operations in and out of the Middle East. The Airmen of the 817th provided stage management and crews for Ramstein and Stuttgart Air Base, Germany; Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Rota, Spain and Manas Air Base, Kyrgystan.

The stage operations and crews were directed by Mr. Tim Peyton, one of the key managers at Ramstein AB. He made the decisions as to which crews flew into which stage locations in theater, ensuring each spot was seeded properly. C-17 crews often flew aboard KC-135 tankers as passengers to their various operating locations. There they would enter the stage, receiver their mission for the next day, acquire crew rest, pre-brief and step to a fully loaded jet for a mission that would routinely last from 12-24 hrs In duration before their mission was complete. At peak times, there were as many as 75 crews operating and at up to seven locations. Total cargo delivered over a four month deployment would often equate between 5 and 6 million pounds of cargo (20k-30k Short Tons) with roughly 3,000-4,000 total sorties flown.

How did the patch come to be? Under the inspiration of Lt Col Holt, the men and women of the 16th Airlift Squadron found themselves wanting to identify with their herald legacy. Lt Col Holt went to great lengths to instill in the unit a sense of overwhelming pride and admiration for what the "Lions" [the unit's stateside mascot] has been asked to take on. By mid 2005, C-17 cargo space was in such high demand by the warfighter, that every single pallet position or "loading space" was spoken for by those downrange who had to have it either coming or going. What Lt Col Holt instituted was a "Tunner Like" approach, spirit and systems analysis of the business at hand. He recognized that the Airmen who served at the 817 EAS were not unlike the Airmen who flew "The Hump" and even traversed some of the same routes of flight. The unit needed a symbol and it seemed all too fitting that the 817 EAS adopt a design which pays a heroes tribute to those who also wore the CBI Patch.

CBI Insignia 817th EAS Insignia
(original design)
817th EAS Insignia
(final version)
817th EAS Insignia
(desert version)

Capt Heathman started crafting the original design and came up with two concepts. The first concept was more of a shield, differing in the shape as to keep it somewhat original, but this design was later scrapped for the traditional CBI look. The Kuomintang Sun of China was replaced with the Crescent Moon from the Turkish Flag, representing the Headquarters from there Command, Control, Resourcing and Support resided. The patch design was turned over to local shop at the Base Exchange to create and sew. The first order of 250 patches were sent aboard various C-17s to all the stage locations so the men and women who served under Lt Col Holt received one of the first in production. The squadron also came up with a Desert Version, coins and copper plates representing their time under the 817 EAS. The unit also adopted an effective yet simple mantra, "Semper Pallets!" In the airlift business, cargo is your treasure and you need to get it delivered at any cost to those who need it most. The men and women of the 16th Airlift Squadron went on to ensure the design of the newly minted 817 EAS patch endured by garnering adpotion approval from then, Commander, Air Mobility Command, Gen Duncan McNabb and the Air Force Heraldry office. Still to this day, the men and women of the 817 EAS proudly wear the likeness of the CBI patch on their right shoulder. It was designed to honor those heroes who delivered freedom in our past and those who continue the mission today and beyond.

(design which was used for the copper plates mentioned above)

Ed: I would like to also express my special thanks to Lt. Col. Steven DiMatteo (817 EAS/CC, 62 OG), Capt. Steven Byrum (817 EAS/CCE, 10 AS), Capt. Christopher Mazzei (817 EAS/Det 1, 10 AS), and Capts Erik Carlson and Norbert King II (4 AS/CCE) for contacting me several years ago and informing me as to the existance of the 817th's patch.

From Capt. Mazzei:

"Our mission here takes us over the Tien Shan mountain range in Central Asia, and every time the weather is clear and I look down upon the thousands upon thousands of mountain peaks, I am amazed that brave aviators flew in that environment during World War II.  To be honest, it's easy for us to fly with high performance, pressurized aircraft with modern avionics out here.  I can't imagine dead reckoning, on oxygen, in the weather, in freezing temperatures."

For more on the origins of the CBI patch, see HERE and HERE.

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