The Legend Behind the Motto and Patch of the NC-800 South Charlotte Cadet Squadron
Integrity is defined as “the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards.” This is a trait not commonly found, yet one of the most sought-after by those in positions of authority. A person who possesses integrity has the inner moral strength to do the right thing, regardless of personal cost.
The word integrity comes from an ancient Roman army tradition. The best military in the world, the Romans prided themselves in their discipline. Every morning the legions were formed for inspection. As the inspecting centurion halted in front of each legionnaire, the soldier would strike his breastplate with his right fist. There, covering the heart, armor had to be strongest to provide protection from swords, spears, and arrows. As the soldier struck his armor, he would shout "integritas" (in-teg-ri-tas), which in Latin means wholeness, completeness. The inspecting centurion listened closely for the ring that well-kept armor would give off, showing it was whole and strong. Once satisfied the breastplate was sound and the soldier beneath it was protected, he would move on to the next man.
At this time, the Praetorian Guard (Imperial bodyguards – the special forces of the Roman army) was ascending in power and influence. Members were drawn from the strongest political allies in the Roman nobility. These “politically correct” soldiers of the Legions received the finest equipment and armor. To signify their hearts belonged to Caesar—not to their unit, not to an institution, and not to a code of ideals—they did not shout “integritas” during inspections, but rather “Hail Caesar.” They armored themselves to serve the cause of a single man. Rather than holding themselves to high levels of discipline and rigorous training, the Praetorians partied at court and dabbled in intrigue while slaves took responsibility for their armor and weapons.
As the rift between the Legion and the imperial bodyguard grew larger, so the meaning of the word “integritas” changed. It became a rallying call and battle cry to the legionnaires, demonstrating these men were not associated with the immoral conduct of the Praetorian Guard. It signified that not only was their armor sound, their training complete, and their discipline undiminished, but their character was sound, their standards were high, and morals were beyond reproof. They were complete in their integrity.
Unfortunately, by 383 AD the decline of honor that defined the Praetorian Guard had infected the Legions. As a 4th century Roman general wrote, "When, because of negligence and laziness, parade ground drills were abandoned, the customary armor began to feel heavy since the soldiers rarely, if ever, wore it. Therefore, they first asked the emperor to set aside the breastplates and mail and then the helmets. So our soldiers fought the Goths without any protection for the heart and head and were often beaten by archers. Although there were many disasters, which lead to the loss of great cities, no one tried to restore the armor to the infantry. They took their armor off, and when the armor came off, so too came their integrity."
At the South Charlotte Squadron, cadets are challenged to uphold a high moral standard of honor and integrity. This is not simply a personage donned each Tuesday evening for meetings, but should affect all activities in life. The US Air Force honor code explains how to have integrity: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.” To remind cadets of that challenge, our squadron implements the tradition of the Roman legionnaires. Whenever cadets fall out during a meeting, they strike their hand across their chest, yelling “integritas”, signifying their commitment to integrity – both in their gear, and in their character.
NC-800 Shield Heraldry
The sword stands for courage
The arm denotes hard work
The hand grasping the sword signifies a pledge of faith
The breastplate means integrity
The blue of the background signifies loyalty
The gold of the breastplate denotes honor
The red of the outline stands for strength
The silver of the sword means sincerity
The black of the hilt signifies perseverance
The white of the lettering denotes purity of purpose