COLUMBIA — About 160 South Carolina Army National Guard engineers are heading to Afghanistan sporting a new, panther-adorned logo designed by a young illustrator in Rock Hill.
The logo shows a growling, muscled black panther perched atop a red castle, its tail wound around one of its two towers. The engineering unit is dubbed “Task Force Panther” for the nine-month Afghan mission.
The logo carries the unit name as well as the phrase “Sapper Strong.” Sapper is a nickname for engineers, according to the battalion’s Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Medlin.
“They wanted a very fierce animal, the panther, and I used powerful colors to show strength, black and red,” said Matt Andrews, a recent graduate of Winthrop University. “I’ve never been in the military, so it’s nice to be able to help them out.”
The 22-year-old Andrews, who was originally from Waxhaw, N.C., but now lives in Rock Hill, donated his services to work on the emblem. It will be used by the 178th Engineer Battalion that is in training for a July deployment overseas.
Medlin, the unit’s 41-year-old senior enlisted officer, said he thinks the logo will help boost soldiers’ patriotism while reminding them of home. Many of the soldiers are fans of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolina Panthers football team, and the emblem also embodies strength and resilience, Medlin said.
The Rock Hill-based unit is slated to help build roads, fix infrastructure and oversee other engineering squads in Afghanistan. They will use the logo on banners, training books and vehicles, Medlin said.
Medlin said he sought assistance for an informal logo after members of his own unit tried to draw one. Medlin said such military logos are used to help bolster “unit cohesion.”
But the soldiers’ submissions ended up looking like “drawings on a high school wrestling T-shirt,” Medlin joked. So he sought the assistance of a professor at Winthrop, who suggested he contact Andrews, then a senior illustration major.
“We talked a bit, and he came up with three different ideas,” Medlin said of Andrews. “It was pretty easy because what he came up with is what we needed.”
A Rock Hill native, Medlin is a full-time Guardsman who has 24 years in the service. The engineer unit is commanded by Lt. Col. Corol Dobson, and the engineers will train in Texas, Georgia and at Fort Jackson, S.C., before their departure, Medlin said.
The logo “adds a little bit of motivation,” Medlin said. Many in the unit have deployed three or four times to either Iraq or Afghanistan, so it helps to give this mission a different touch, he said.
According to an Army website, the Army Corps of Engineers first put a castle on its epaulets and belt plates in 1840 to show pride in building and defeating fortifications. A stolid, two-towered castle was formally adopted by the Army as the Corps’ official insignia in 1902, the Web site said.