The U.S. Navy has reportedly disciplined a number of sailors for violating Pentagon regulations by wearing a uniform patch with the slogan “Make Aircrew Great Again” during President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan last year.
Sailors aboard the USS Wasp were photographed in May 2019 with the patches — which bore a likeness of the president along with the slogan — on their uniforms.
Reporters present for Trump’s speech documented the patches, and photographs of them went viral.
According to Military.com, an undisclosed number of service members faced non-judicial punishments for violating a policy that orders active-duty personnel to avoid participating in political events while in uniform.
A non-judicial punishment is a military form of discipline for minor offenses that can affect pay and can be permanently recorded in a service member’s military file.
“Permissible punishments for officers can include forfeiture of pay (up to ½ of one month’s pay per month for two months), restriction to base or to the ship (up to 60 days), arrest in quarters (up to 30 days), and a reprimand,” the Navy says.
The charges were later dropped, a Navy official told Military.com, and the service members were hit with administrative reprimands, the severity of which was not clear.
While only nine service members are believed to have worn the patches during Trump’s speech, a total of 18 sailors and officers were suspected of violating the Department of Defense policy.
All of the sailors were from the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, which is based in Guam.
“Though the investigation found the Sailors did not intend to wear the patches as a political statement for or against the President, U.S. Pacific Fleet determined that, because the American public could reasonably view the wearing of the patches on official uniforms as DoD association with President Trump’s 2020 campaign, it was in violation of DoDD 1344.10,” Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Rachel McMarr said in a statement to CNN.
Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 was updated in 2008 and outlines policies on political activities for members of the armed forces.
While the patches looked great and were likely more of a morale boost than anything else, the Pentagon’s directive is rightfully intended to keep the country’s entirely volunteer military from appearing politically partisan.
America’s military service men and women are some of the bravest people in the world, and their integrity and professionalism must be protected.
That being said, it’s fair to debate whether or not the sailors should have been punished for wearing the patches:
Navy punished sailors for wearing these patches while Trump visited their ship. He’s their boss and they ❤️ him! These patches will be family heirlooms now and priceless. pic.twitter.com/rAYx7uJXil
— Angela&McDonald (@almcdawg) February 14, 2020
Unacceptable! @realDonaldTrump overrule the Navy sec and let these sailors be sailors! VINDMAN should be punished! Not these Patriots!
— Edward Schultz? ✞ ?? ?? (@MAGASchultz) February 14, 2020
In a Feb. 5 memo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper commented on the Pentagon’s policy ordering active-duty personnel from to remain apolitical while in uniform.
“As public servants who have taken an oath to defend these principles, we uphold DOD’s longstanding tradition of remaining apolitical as we carry out our official responsibilities,” Esper wrote, according to Air Force Magazine.
“Maintaining the hard-earned trust and confidence of the American people requires us to avoid any action that could imply endorsement of a political party, political candidate, or campaign by any element of the department,” he added.
“This Memorial Day in the U.S. Americans are having a sacred day of remembrance, reflection and prayer,” he told more than 1,000 sailors and Marines, according to Stars and Stripes. “Citizens all across the country came together to decorate the graves of our fallen heroes and honor their selfless acts of courage. The citizens of our country are incredible. They love our country and they love you.”
The president called the ship’s crew a “tough bunch of people” and described them as “daring and mighty warriors in the Pacific.”
The sailors and Marines broke out into chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A.”
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