A symbol is composed of three components: a frame (geometric border), fill, and icon. Frames are geometric shapes used to display affiliation. Affiliation refers to whether the warfighting object being represented is a threat. The basic affiliation categories are friendly, unknown, neutral, and enemy. The unknown frame shape is normally used only for aircraft and ships. The frame shape for suspected friendly, enemy, or neutral is used for ground units not positively identified.
Fill refers to the area within the frame. If color is used in a symbol, it shall indicate affiliation. Generally, black is used for the frame, icon, and modifiers when symbols are displayed on a light background. White is used for these elements when they are displayed on a dark background. A color fill can be used if an icon is displayed within the area of the frame.
Unit symbol modifiers are combined with basic unit function (branch) symbols to create a composite symbol that represents a unique type of unit. All modifiers are placed in either the center of the frame, upper half, or above the basic function symbol with the exception of airborne, mountain, and light modifiers. These are placed below the basic function symbol. In addition to the modifier symbols, text may be used inside the symbol frame to further clarify the symbol.
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