Yuma Black Widow Marine aviation squadron changes insignia

Unit's decade-old design didn't follow regulations
April 27, 2008 - 9:29PM

Yuma's Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 recently changed its unit insignia after discovering the design it has used for a decade didn't adhere to regulations.

In September, inspectors from the 3rd Marine Air Wing declared the insignia out of regulations because it depicted a recognizable aircraft, a black widow sat outside the patch's circular boundary and the nickname/squadron name scrolls were in the wrong place.

According to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Instructions, a naval aviation unit insignia at the squadron level must be contained entirely within a circle with a four-inch diameter. The instruction also points out scrolls placed directly below the circle are for unit designations only, and the insignia must not feature recognizable aircraft or ship designs.

After investigating the discrepancy further, Maj. Gregory Clarke, MALS-13 executive officer, found the "black widow" emblem was never officially approved as the squadron's insignia.

About 10 years ago, the squadron's commander decided to change the original insignia to include the black widow and spiderwebs but never reported it to the Navy Aviation History Branch, said Clarke.

Since the emblem was unauthorized, Lt. Col. Guillermo Meza-Ortega, MALS-13 commanding officer, set out to create a replacement.

The squadron aimed to create a new emblem without completely deviating from the black widow version, said Meza-Ortega.

Meza-Ortega's search led to a squadron-wide insignia contest, with Marines submitting drawings of what they wanted to see as the new symbol of MALS-13.

Of the more than a dozen submissions, the winning insignia, created by Clarke and his son, merged the last two versions.

While the new insignia's circular design remains the same, the name of the squadron and squadron nickname have switched positions. The squadron name now runs along the underside of the patch and the nickname along the top.

Other changes include replacement of the aircraft with a black widow spider, removal of the spiderwebs and the addition of a bursting bomb to the logistics symbol.

The bursting bomb was added to represent aviation ordnance, augmenting the previous insignia, which included a gold winged key for supply, a quill pen for administration and a wrench for maintenance.

"We tried to create an insignia that would satisfy both sides," said Meza-Ortega.

The new squadron insignia is something senior Marines can still identify with and new Marines will recognize, he said.

Although the MALS-13 symbol has been altered, several Marines who have caught a glimpse of it welcome the change.

"It looks a lot more professional, more clean," said Lance Cpl. Steven Cruz, an embarkation specialist. "It doesn't identify us with only one aircraft."

"I like it because it goes back to the roots of the original insignia. It's a mix of the old and new," said Capt. Richard Martin, MALS' operations officer.

However, Marines don't have to throw out all their old MALS-13 merchandise.

"Since the 'illegal' insignia is an inextricable part of MALS-13's history, there is no intent to eradicate it from memorabilia items such as old plaques and the like," said Clarke. "The plan, though, is to replace the originally approved insignia and the 'illegal' insignia in all functional areas, official correspondence and new memorabilia.

"The other depictions will eventually become anomalies that will spark conversation about the insignia's history."
Lance Cpl. M. Daniel Sanchez writes for The Desert Warrior, the newspaper of the Marine Corps Air Station, from which this story is reprinted.