Building a Heritage Board for a USAF Squadron




   Myself and a couple othersI were tasked with designing a heritage board for our unit because, the unit is going through a dramatic change and the Commander wanted to preserve what once was. In the 6 SOS, whenever a person enters the unit they are given a CAA number, (Combat Aviation Advisor). This is part of the heritage started in Oct 1994, #1 CAA. Over the years people have come and gone, but their names and numbers have been recorded, 1 - 598 to date.

   My idea was for everyone to have their name, rank, and number on a dog tag (military) and have them in sequential order. The dog tag idea worked out well, excepted for instead of everyone having their own free floating dog tag, I decided to laser the shape of the dog tag onto the wood. This would ensure they did not get lost and I was able to get 32 names on each piece of wood. Also, to give it a little bit more heritage I added the commanders emblem to all those who were ever the commander of the unit and being we have lost two members of our unit since 1994 during operations, there tag is also affixed with the fallen soldiers emblem.

  In the picture is the shape that I went with. The question mark is part of our heritage from when the C-47 aircraft would pull the gliders, the question mark is actually the hook, our heritage dates back to the 1st Fighter Squadron.

   To give an idea of the size of this project. The name boards are all arranged on a 4 X 8 piece of plywood. The piece is then sitting on 2 pieces of 4 x 8 plywood. So in the end 8' X 8'.

Step 1: Layout of the Boards

  All 20-name boards were engraved using an epilog 36ext 120watt laser, which belongs to the unit. The burning was applied to ash board prepared wood from The setting for the laser was speed 100 / power 100 and center engraving at 600 DPI using a Jarvis pattern, software used was CorelDraw X4. Each board took 20 minutes to laser, and with the air assist it did not required much sanding, being they were unfinished boards.

   Once the boards were finished with a natural stain and polyurethane finish they were laid out. The pictures show the beginning of the lay out process, where I was trying to decide the best way to do it and keep a balance to the over size of the board.

  The centerpiece is again the heritage question mark and the stripes. For those that may remember the old P-51 Mustangs with the black and white stripes on the tail, well here is the heritage. This piece was designed in Power Point and then saved as a picture, this was the best option to be able to get the lines right. After the picture was saved, I then opened it with Corel raw Photo and finalized it for burning.

  The centerpiece was burned using the same setting above but with a DPI of 1200, and because of this setting it took 1 hour and ten minutes to finish, but the detail and depth were amazing.

  The boards were mounted onto a 6" x 6" peice of popler and glued for support during layout. Once the glus had set 2" brad nails were used to secure it in place for good.

Step 2: Area of Operations

Because the unit operates all over the world it was fitting to use the AOR emblems (meaning the world is split up into 5 areas of operation and they are given a name PACOM, EUCOM, SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM, CENTCOM) also each command has an emblem. The header of the board, was designed to incorporate all five commands and below each of the command emblems, I engraved the world map and darkened in (burnt out) that area.

  On the side you will see two painted emblems. The shield is that of AFSOC (Air Force Special Operation Command) and the other one is our unit patch. These were engraved and then I hand painted them to give it contrast against the other boards.

  The last piece I did for this project was to complete the Air Commando Tab. This is a very important piece of history for anyone who enters the unit. You are presented this Tab by the commander during your graduation after completing several months of grueling training. Not everyone makes it to the end to get their tab.

  The 28" tab was engraved out of yellow pine and was engraved using the same settings as the name boards, except for the very end I used the vector setting for the 120 watt machine and cut a 3/8" grove twice. This allowed the piece to be cut from the rest of the board clean.

Step 3: Finalization

   To give this project a final finishing touch of detail, I decided to hand paint the lines on the question mark of each name. What that meant was to had paint 2650 1/16" lines, by hand. although it was time consuming, the detail that it gave to the boards was amazing.

This was a great and honoring project to design make and complete. It will be unveiled during the CAA reunion at the end of the month. Everyone who sees it as been amazed that it all was done in house. After starting this project, I have been asked to design and make more plaques and going away gifts then I can count as you can see here.

  I hope this was as much fun for you to look at and read as it was for me to build.

(Names have been blurred or removed for security reasons)

Thank you



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    4 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    That turned out great! What kind of unit is lucky enough to have a laser cutter?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    thankyou for your service and for what you've done for your unit! this looks amazing!

    nice work! did you know that you can cover the surface of the wood in tape to protect it from scorching? Minimizes the amount of sanding you have to do later.

    1 reply

    Thank you..Yes that is a very good option to do, but on this project, I wanted the branded type look for the dog tags.