The Civil Affairs/Military Government branch of the United States Army Reserve, established by General Orders No. 51 on August 17, 1955, lacked an officially approved insignia for the first ten months of its existence. On April 30, 1956, the Office of Civil Affairs and Military Government gave its stamp of approval on a design that had been submitted to the Institute of Heraldry featuring a torch of liberty, sword, and a scroll superimposed over a gold globe. The design was approved by the Department of the Army General Staff just over a month later.

Each component of the insignia’s design represented an aspect or characteristic of the mission of the Civil Affairs/Military Government branch, which in 2006 was designated as a basic branch of the Army. The globe symbolizes the worldwide scope of the branch’s area of operations, while the torch represents the liberty and freedom associated with the United States. Military capability is displayed through the sword, and the scroll is emblematic of rule of law and government.
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The Army has performed operations that would now fall under the purview of Civil Affairs at least as far back as the Mexican-American War. General Winfield Scott, commander of a second army that President Polk had sent to invade Mexico, had studied the French occupation of Spain and noted how the high-handed arrogance and outright brutality displayed by the French soldiers against the Spanish population had fanned the flames of resistance, sparking a guerilla warfare campaign that eventually contributed to Napoleon’s downfall.

Civil Affairs Command Insignia
To ensure that his troops would not turn the Mexican non-combatants into partisans, he issued General Order No. 20 mandating that U.S. soldiers respect both the rights and property of Mexicans, local governments, and especially the Roman Catholic Church. In doing so, he ensured that the Mexican people harbored no personal animosities against American troops that might spark guerilla ambushes or bushwhackings.

What made Scott’s edict so effective is that he backed it up with proof that he was intent on administering justice even-handedly to both his soldiers, other American citizens, and the Mexicans. One of the military commissions tasked with handling soldiers accused of crimes against the citizenry, for example, not only found two soldiers guilty of charges of robbing a local store, but actually locked them in the town dungeon so the locals could see justice was being dealt out fairly. Scott also incorporated Mexicans in the rebuilding efforts that necessarily followed combat operations, paying them high wages (by local standards) which in turn were infused into the local economy.

Scott’s approach to dealing with the civilian population was a critical component of his highly successful campaign and peaceful period of occupation of Mexico, and he is rightfully called the “Father of Civil Affairs.”

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