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NEWS | Nov. 7, 2022

History of the Crossbow

By Airman 1st Class Olivia Bithell 633d Air Base Wing

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – Heraldry is described as the use of symbols differentiating friend from foe on the battlefield and typically shown on armor, dating back to the medieval period.

Today, the U.S. Air Force uses emblems to promote esprit de corps, morale and a sense of heritage. The 633d Air Base Wing emblem is a symbol of what the unit represents from the past to the present.

BONUM BONO ACCUMULATE or "Accumulate Good Upon Good” is the unit’s motto and was justifiably adopted through the long history of the wing. Originating as the 633d Combat Support Group in the central highlands of Vietnam to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and now presently at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, the wing’s patch went through many changes, never letting go of the crossbow.

“The legacy of our Crossbow Nation has passed through generations,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Gregory Beaulieu, 633d ABW commander. “Without the Airmen at Pleiku, Andersen and now here at Langley, the successes of the Wing wouldn’t be possible. I’m proud that today’s Airmen can honor the significance of the patch through their hard work and dedication to the mission.”

The unit patch represents Airmen from then until now who have served the wing. The ultramarine blue eludes to the sky, where Air Force operations dominate. The Air Force yellow represents the sun and the excellence Air Force personnel must emulate. The grey clouds are a protective cover and the two lightning bolts symbolize flexibility and precision. Lastly, the crossbow, with origins dating back to Pleiku Air Base in Vietnam.

The crossbow has both a literal and figurative meaning.

At Pleiku Air Base, the Montagnards or “mountain people” consisting of approximately 30 tribes, were persecuted because of their opposing views to the communist regime. The U.S. military personnel be-friended these locals, both for an alliance in the war and to help them achieve a better quality of life.

As part of a civic actions program, the 633d CSG established a relationship with the Montagnards. They provided medical care to them, helped repair and build infrastructure, and aided in establishing an industry in crossbow making for the locals.

General Sun Tzu in his work, “The Art of War”, made the comparison of the crossbow to the Strategic Configuration of power what he referred to as shih.

“… Thus the strategic configuration of power (shih) of those that excel in warfare is sharply focused, their constraints are precise. Their strategic configuration of power (shih) is like a fully drawn crossbow, their constraints like the release of the trigger.”

Today, the wing’s Airmen wear the crossbow patch on the right arm of the uniform in honor of its historical relationship with the Montagnards and the power it represents.

 “Today's Airmen proudly wear the unit patch of the 633d Air Base Wing at Joint Base Langley - Eustis, Virginia, and carry on the legacy of support first established by the 633d Combat Support Group in the central highlands of Vietnam,” said Ryan Collins, 633d ABW historian. “[They] remember their heritage and unit history from Pleiku Air Base to Andersen Air Force Base and here at JBLE continuously seeking opportunities to, "Accumulate Good Upon Good," or BONUM BONO ACCUMULATE.”