As many as a dozen and a half sailors and officers from a Guam-based helicopter squadron have received “administrative reprimands” for wearing MAGA-like arm patches on their flight suits during a speech by President Donald Trump aboard the USS Wasp in Japan last May, Military.com reported Thursday.
The red circular patches reading “Make Aircrew Great Again” with what appears to be an image of Trump were deemed to have violated a Pentagon policy prohibiting troops from engaging in political activity while in uniform, according to the military news outlet.
A 103-page report on the incident said while the crew didn’t intend for the patches, created in 2016 or 2017 by an enlisted man formerly assigned to the squadron, to be political, they nevertheless violated the directive.
The officer in charge of the detachment who attended the speech confiscated the patches immediately after the incident, the report said.
The enlisted personnel and officers originally faced non-judicial punishment but the charges were later dropped, Military.com said, quoting anonymous sources. The administrative reprimands were carried out at the unit level, but the number and severity of the punishments were not disclosed.
The discipline was meted out to “ensure the leaders and sailors involved understand requirements of DoD Directive 1344.10 and give due consideration to the heightened risk that actions by service members in uniform will be perceived as an official DoD position,” said Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr, a U.S. Navy spokeswoman in Hawaii.
“Make Aircrew Great Again”
Nine enlisted members of the squadron showed up to the president’s Memorial Day speech wearing the patches. Five officers, including the one who confiscated the patches, the leading chief petty officer and three other enlisted personnel also were investigated over the matter.
McMarr said Pacific Fleet officials determined that the patches could be reasonably viewed by members of the public as an endorsement of Trump’s 2020 campaign. The crew members were positioned near a F-35 joint strike fighter jet and drew immediate attention.
A female Secret Service agent asked to trade patches with a crew member, who obliged,” the investigation said. Several Secret Service agents commented positively about the patches, and at least two got Trump to sign their patches and took a photo of the president holding one.
Several squadron members told investigators the patches were not meant to be political, but rather a play on words. They said they had been given verbal approval to wear the patches on flight suits withing “squadron spaces.”
The patches had been worn by at least two of the squadron’s former commanders, one of which remarked they were “in good taste.”
Shame on Navy.https://t.co/A3E1RMQXny
— Patti (@PattiPropst) February 14, 2020
Those who reacted on Twitter were critical of the Navy, with one commenter opining that the service branch should be ashamed of its actions.