Tracing the Logo Origins of the

Ironman - Hercules - Roughnecks 


VQ-3, VQ-4, VQ-7, the squadron Dets at Travis and Pax, and the Wing all have their individual logos.  Each has its own history.  What follows is the start of collecting that history and the content will change as I find more TACAMO Sailors with the story of how the logo came to be.

With the C-130 Hercules being a new model of aircraft in the mid-1960s, it makes sense that VQ-3 Sailors found the Roman mythological character Hercules as having double meaning for the mission they were undertaking in an aircraft with the same name.  The character and the airplane, both possessed great strength, and performed feats that others could not.  The mission was to create a radio link half way across the globe that connected the President with the deployed nuclear submarines in the Pacific.  TACAMO was the vital link in the chain that ensured connectivity.  So a design on the globe with Hercules holding the chains in his hands and personally making ‘the connection’ was a depiction of what the VQ-3 mission was all about.  It is said that he was dressed in a Roman Soldier’s uniform, hence the helmet and baggy short pants and tall boots.  How the name IRONMAN came about is not yet known.  Marvel Comics first introduced TALES of SUSPENSE series in 1959 and it featured an Ironman character with a Roman-looking outfit including the tall boots and below the waist tunic, all of a dark grey and black color. 

VQ-3 - IRONMAN Squadron


Tracing the Origins of Ironman Logo: 

From VQ-3's first Skipper, Ed Preston, who turned 84 last July.

"The VQ-3 Communications officer that came up with the “Ironman” logo was LT. Richard (Rich) Ward. It was called the “weakest link” as we thought of ourselves as the final link between the head shed in the White House and the shooters under the water and we probably were, and still are, the weakest point in the network… No one has been able to locate Rich for a number of years now." Photo caption by the Skipper: "Safety was paramount at VQ-3.. (Note the outboards are caged….)”

Still looking for the story of why Ironman and not Hercules.


Ironman became a superhero figure in a gold and red outfit that is still current.  In 1982, CO VQ-3 CDR Jim Bailey selected a new design from several drafted that put Iroman atop a set of agnostic gold wings with a single star in the wing’s shield.   The addition of the trident was symbolic of the coming Trident SSBN force, first deployed in the Pacific in that time frame.

VQ-3 Logo 1989 to Present

The hangar deck description of the 1980s version was Iron Gal in baggy pants, riding on Army wings. In 1988, VQ-3, with Marvel’s approval, adapted that figure with grey instead of gold colors.  Several other designs were created but a hangar crew deck voted and went with the new superhero Ironman. LT Mark Chaves completed all the drawings and negotiations and created the OPNAV-approved logo change.  This was possible because the heraldry rules permitted a change with a change of equipment, the Merc then replacing the Herc.

Skipper ED Preston adds: Barragada Hill in the background.  The other hill on Guam was the "Tank farm" south of Agana where we would drag off the stuck drogues so we could get to Fiddler's Green CPO club quicker. (No high level staff meetings to solve the problem - just drag the sucker and knock it off). Trucker, Rick Ward could draw armor but not muscles hence --no Hercules....

The story of how VQ-4 adopted The Shadow is best told by former LT John Ehlers who came up with the idea from the Portegese wine label,  Sandeman.  “As I recall, there was no formal process.  Over time, a number of us had chatted about the Sandeman logo as an apt design to represent the secrecy and mystery involved in our mission.  Because we flew into Rota frequently, there had been opportunities to tour the countryside and on at least one occasion some of us toured the winery (I think it was in Jerez).  Anyway, this design just sort of happened and I drew the thing with the lightning bolts so everyone could see what it might look like.  I guess they liked it because I don’t remember doing numerous drafts.  As far as timing goes, I’m pretty sure it was before the formal commissioning, but I think some time elapsed while the heraldry office did its work.  I don’t remember the seal/patch being in place at the time of commissioning.” “My best recollection is that I drew it at the nav table on a flight over the North Atlantic (can’t recall which mission).  You may notice that the heraldry people changed it into a cartoon character that I have never liked.  I was particularly displeased to find that other squadron patches used the same theme but were able to have theirs not turned into cartoons.”

Original SHADOW Sketch 1968

With the changes made to the original sketch, John Ehlers’ modified version remained the logo adopted and used by VQ-4 for over 35 years.



VQ-4 Logo approved in 2003/2004

The more Western Shadow logo was created in response to the Shadow Chiefs Mess wanting to update the image.  The wife of then Shadow Command Master Chief Steve Olson completed the art work that was accepted by the Mess as the candidate design. As then Shadow Skipper Tom "Rocket" Maser reports, "There I was in my office and the CMC knocked on the door jam requesting to enter. He came with a proposal from the Chiefs mess to change to antiquated Shadow emblem. He came with all the instructions that go along with a change and I asked if he had any suggestions for updating it? Of course, as a fine of a CMC that any command could have he did have a few samples which were all quite impressive. I asked him to go out to the Sailors on the hangar deck to see if anyone had any other suggestions and there were a few but one seemed to win everyone’s vote. We dug into the paperwork and it was approved."

VQ-7 Logo 

CDR Kevin Snode writes of the new VQ-7 logo: That was done during my last few months as Skipper at 7, departing Aug 2014.  CDR Matt Snifin was the CO after but I started it. LCDR Jeff Labauve and his folks in OPS did the legwork to put the package together for submission.  With the squadron being in Oklahoma and having our call sign as Roughnecks, it seemed we should adapt our logo to our location and call sign.  The Roughneck is an oil field worker, adapted from the large statue in Tulsa OK at the Fairgrounds.


The patch was designed and made in 1999 by  Dan Collini.  It came from the original NTSU design, it incorporated the flag, the eagle, the seven stars "Pleiades" (the seven sisters VQ-7) are the mother of "Mercury" the messenger (Maia the mother of Hermes in greek mythology).  (VQ-7 is the mother of TACAMO) The eagle is holding the diploma (schoolhouse) and the lightning bolt (communications).