Square knot’s secret revealed in Air National Guard sword

An Air National Guard history document that features how the ceremonial Order of the Sword was forged has recently solved the mystery of why a stranded-wire square knot ended up on the handle, and more.

The questions came after the five-foot long sword was moved last summer to the Air National Guard Readiness Center’s lobby in Maryland after 17 years at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center in east Tennessee.

The ceremonial sword symbolizes the enlisted corps’ top honor – The Order of the Sword – given to leaders of great influence, but officials said that some wondered about who produced the aluminum ceremonial piece now on display there and why the knot was affixed.

“Would someone take it off inadvertently?”

That’s something that Chief Master Sgt. Lynn Alexander retired, said he worried about, so he wrote a history of the ceremonial sword to help inform the Air National Guard’s current Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. James Hotaling, and others.

Hotaling said in an email that “Alexander’s research is invaluable.”

“I wanted to pass on what I knew about the sword,” said Alexander, who served as the Air National Guard’s senior enlisted adviser to the director from 1978 to 1983.

Alexander said in an email that he requested that square knot when the sword was forged in 1981 to honor Maj. Gen. I.G. Brown, former director of the Air National Guard and TEC’s founder.

“General Brown was the one who established our NCO academy and encouraged its graduates to ‘be square,’” said Alexander. “He attended every graduation and would say, ‘don’t just be another supervisor when you get back to your unit, work hard to be the best leader you can be.’”

Alexander also revealed the swordsmith: Capt. Jon Christenson.

It was the first sword that Christenson made from aluminum after forging ceremonial swords for two other commands, said Alexander.

Some other factoids in the ceremonial sword’s history:

– The ceremonial sword cost $200, which was paid for by selling Order of the Sword booster cards for $1.

– Twelve Air National Guard officers were inducted into the Order of the Sword by the noncommissioned officer corps; most recently, retired Lt. Gen. Harry “Bud” Wyatt in 2012; as well as the Air National Guard’s only inducted field grade officer, retired Col. Edmund C. Morrisey, in 1990.

– The current command chief of the Air National Guard is tasked as the “keeper of the ceremonial sword” responsible for its location, display, and maintenance.

– The ceremonial sword’s Air National Guard symbols were cut out from two recruiter badges.

“The square knot is my favorite part about the sword,” said Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund, TEC’s photographer.

Skoglund said he “felt like its safe keeper” too after the ceremonial sword was displayed outside his office for nearly a decade. He also attended two Orders of the Sword ceremonies as well as polished the sword for the latest.

“We miss having it here … but others need to see it and learn about it,” said Skoglund.

Photo: Master Sgt. Kurt Skogland, U.S. Air Force.

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