Air Force squadron in South Korea replaces pit bull morale patch linked to white supremacy
By MATTHEW KEELER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 16, 2021
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea – The civil engineer squadron at Osan has replaced its pit bull morale patch because it too closely resembled a symbol associated with a white supremacist group, according to a wing statement Tuesday.
Col. John Gonzales, commander of the 51st Fighter Wing, ordered the change after an internal review “on all Unit Emblems, Mottos, Nicknames and Other Symbols” back in October and December, wing spokesman Master Sgt. Joshua Garcia said in an email Tuesday to Stars and Stripes.
The morale patch of the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron “Mongrels” depicted a pit bull with a striking resemblance to what the Anti-Defamation League has labeled as a racist symbol.
While the wing did not name a particular hate group, its statement said the squadron’s red, white and black patch was similar to a graphic used by a known and active extremist group in the United States.
According to the Anti-Defamation League website, white supremacists use a specific pit bull graphic so often that it has become a white supremacist symbol itself. One racist group, Keystone United, formerly known as Keystone State Skinheads, adopted it as part of its logo.
Gonzales, according to the wing, said he found “that the similarity between the emblems could reasonably cause confusion between the unit and a known active extremist hate group.”
Gonzales acted in conjunction with Lt. Col. Ryan Walinski, commander of the civil engineer squadron, and Col. E. Jonelle Eychner, commander of the 51st Mission Support Group, according to the wing.
“To prevent any inappropriate association with that organization, we have decided to cease use of the current Morale Patch, and the unit will return to a previous version of the Morale Patch that bears no resemblance visually, and could not reasonably be considered to be associated with that extremist organization,” Gonzales said.
The version now in use is a full body depiction of a pit bull with one paw lunging forward. The unit will continue to identify as the “Mongrels.”
The squadron has also removed a painting of a pit bull outside the installation’s fire department.
The insignia review predates an order Feb. 3 by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that all commands hold stand-downs within 60 days to discuss extremism in the U.S. military.
The pit bull graphic on the left is often used by Keystone United, formerly known as the Keystone State Skinheads, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The former morale patch of the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron "Mongrels" at Osan Air Base, South Korea, is shown at right.
ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE/U.S. AIR FORCE