Ten Military Unit Mottos You Might Not Know

Military Transition marines

USMC photo

The unit mottos of the 82nd Airborne (“All the way!”) and the 101st Airborne (“Rendezvous with Destiny”) are pretty well known. As a rule, military unit mottos tend to be 1) written in Latin, and 2) framed around the core values of the armed forces. This has the dual benefit of bolstering morale and warning off the legions of ancient Rome, should they ever rise again. Every once in a while, a unit gets creative with its battle cry. Here are 10 military mottos you might not know.

1. Otatsiihtaissiiststakio piksi makamo ta psswia.

The Asymmetric Warfare Group is a special mission unit for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. The AWG is designed to help other units plug vulnerabilities while identifying emerging threats abroad. (Generally speaking, targets identified by AW guys downrange are not long for this world.) The unit’s motto is “Otatsiihtaissiiststakio piksi makamo ta psswia,” which is the Blackfoot Indian language translation of “Normal is the cycle on a washing machine.”

2. De oppresso liber.

The motto of U.S. Army Special Forces is “De oppresso liber,” which is notable for meaning “To free the oppressed,” or maybe “Free from having been oppressed.” Or maybe “Free from the oppressed one.” Thankfully, unconventional warfare doesn’t often require a command of Latin grammar. The lesson for other units? When in doubt, stick with English.

3. Draconis thesaurus.

The U.S. Army Finance Corps traces its lineage back to June 1775, when the Continental Congress first established the Continental Army. One of its subordinate units, the 18th Financial Management Center, is headquartered out of Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. It primarily supports XVIII Airborne Corps—the “sky dragons.” In fantasy literature, dragons are notorious for hording gold. It makes sense, then, that the motto of 18th FMC is “Draconis thesaurus,” or “Dragon’s treasure.”

4. Miraculi cum pecunia alienum efficemus.

Suppose you’re a spy and you need a space plane, stat. The people you need to talk to belong to the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The RCO is the interface between the Air Force and the intelligence community. The spy agencies pony up the cash and the RCO delivers the hardware. If for no other reason, their motto is honest and to-the-point: “Miraculi cum pecunia alienum efficemus,” or: “Doing Miracles with Other People’s Money.” (Their motto was previously “Opus Dei cum pecunia alienum efficemus,” which translates as “Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money.” It was changed in 2012 when the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers complained.)

5. 9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a

Take a close look at the emblem of U.S. Cyber Command. On the interior ring, you’ll notice what appear to be dots accenting the design. Look even closer, and you’ll see they aren’t dots; they’re alphanumeric characters. Maybe the Battle of Thermopylae would have gone differently if those three hundred Spartans had a battle cry like “9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a.” (It seems there’s nothing cyber can’t do.) That particular little motto is an MD5 hash of the command’s mission statement, which is really long but amounts to: “Our computers will destroy your computers.”

6. In God we trust; all others we monitor.

The Technical Applications Center keeps an eye on signatories to nuclear treaties, and monitors the world for nuclear weapons detonations. It is always on alert, and accomplishes its mission using satellites, seismic gear, and hydroaccoustics. Its motto: “In God we trust; all others we monitor.”

7. Here and everywhere.

The 704th Military Intelligence Brigade belongs to the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, and handles signals-intelligence and cyber defense in conjunction with the National Security Agency. If for no other reason, in light of recent revelations, its motto is slightly unnerving: “Here and everywhere.”

8. Gustasus similis pullus

Awesome patches and mottos from Air Force test pilots could fill this list twice over, but the Spirit stealth bomber might have had the best patch of all time. Embroidered on the emblem of the 509th Bomb Wing “Spirit” flight tests is a space alien riding a stealth bomber. The mottos printed on the scrolls: “To Serve Man,” and below, “Gustasus Similis Pullus” (literally: “tastes like chicken.”) To Serve Man, of course, was the name of a celebrated Twilight Zone episode in which a mysterious book with the same title is discovered. It turns out to be a cookbook used by space aliens in preparing the delicacy that is homo sapiens. What’s the twist with this motto? The test flights were conducted at Area 51.

9. …Minutes and hours—not days and weeks.

The fluidity of modern warfare and the nature of the enemy dictates flexibility rarely associated with the Army. The Rapid Equipping Force was established in 2002 to provide commercial and government off-the-shelf solutions to warfighters on the ground. The unit was instrumental in providing infantrymen with such things as explosives materials detectors and robots designed to find bombs and people in the caves of Afghanistan. In keeping with its name, the REF’s motto and mindset is “…Minutes and hours—not days and weeks.”

10. Non potestis latere.

The 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing belongs to the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency. It is the go-to unit for such airborne surveillance platforms as the MQ-9 Reaper, the MQ-1 Predator, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk. It’s motto gives you the score from the outset: “Non potestis latere.” Translated: “You Can’t Hide.”

David Brown is a regular contributor to Clearance Jobs. He is currently at work on his next book, One Inch From Earth, which tells the story of scientists who study the outer planets of the solar system. He can be found online at http://dwb.io.