Navy reprimands sailors who wore ‘Make Aircrew Great Again’ patches during Trump speech

A Navy helicopter crew chief wears a "Make Aircrew Great Again" morale patch at the Barking Sands missile range in Hawaii, July 12, 2018. Sailors have been reprimanded for wearing the same patch during a speech by President Donald Trump the following year.


By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 14, 2020

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sailors who donned patches with a cartoon depiction of the president and the phrase “Make Aircrew Great Again” during his May speech here received nonjudicial punishments, according to a report Thursday on Military.com.

A Navy investigation document revealed the patches featuring the twist on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan violated a Department of Defense order banning troops from participating in political events in uniform, the report said.

While the number of sailors punished was not released, 18 sailors and officers from Guam’s Helicopter Sea Squadron 25 were told days after the speech they were suspected of violating the policy — nine had worn the patches to the speech aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, according to Military.com.

Some officers also received nonjudicial punishments. Five commissioned officers and a chief petty officer in the helicopter squadron were also investigated on suspicion of violating the policy in connection with the patches, according to the report. It’s unclear whether they were all reprimanded.

Comment from the Pacific Fleet was not immediately available on Friday.

Nonjudicial punishments are disciplinary actions carried out by commanders for minor offenses. They are documented in service members’ records and can include loss of rank and pay, extra duties, restriction to quarters and sometimes brief confinement.

News of the reprimands comes after Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a memorandum Feb. 5 for all military personnel and DOD employees to “avoid any action that could imply endorsement of a political party, political candidate or campaign by any element of the Department.”

“All Department of Defense personnel must be steadfast in our commitment to defend the constitution and our nation’s democratic principles,” according to Esper’s memorandum. “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.”

Reporters covering Trump’s speech aboard the USS Wasp photographed the patches, but it was not the first time images of the patches were circulated.

In July 2018, Stars and Stripes photographed a helicopter crew chief wearing the patch at the Barking Sands missile range in Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific exercises. The Pentagon, itself, in a 2017 Twitter post used a photo of a sailor wearing the same patch, Stars and Stripes reported last year.

Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos

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