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Navy investigating ‘Make Aircrew Great Again’ patches worn during Trump visit aboard USS Wasp

President Donald J. Trump addresses members of USS Wasp Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Yokosuka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
May 29, 2019

The Navy announced it is investigating crew aboard the USS Wasp after they donned “Make Aircrew Great Again” patches during President Donald Trump’s visit on Monday.

Several members of the Wasp crew were spotted the round red patches bearing the image of a pointing President Trump and the slogan “Make Aircrew Great Again,” CNN reported.

“Navy leadership is aware of the incident and reviewing to ensure the patch doesn’t violate DoD policy or uniform regulations,” US Navy spokesperson Lt. Sam Boyle told CNN.

While unofficial patches are permitted and are frequently worn for humor and morale, the patch may be a violation of DoD Directive 1344.10 which prohibits partisan political activities.

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“Members on active duty should not engage in partisan political activity, and that members not on active duty should avoid inferences that their political activities imply or appear to imply official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement,” the directive says, according to the Navy.

The directive also specifies that one must not wear a uniform while participating in political activities, partisan or nonpartisan.

Unit commanders are typically in charge of verifying that unofficial patches abide by military rules.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, former commander of operations in Iraq and Europe, called the patches “inappropriate & against regulation” but cited several other issues he was “more concerned about.”

Hertling then described several experiences where he permitted unauthorized badges because of the positive impact on morale.

“When commanding @1stArmoredDiv in Iraq, I noticed our Blackhawk Crew Chiefs had a yellow happy face patch velcroed to the back of his flight helmet. “That’s unauthorized,” I told him. “Yessir, but it keeps the crew smiling,” he said. I let him keep it.,” he tweeted.

“And when patrolling with our Iraqi counterparts, I put a velcroed Iraqi flag on the shoulder opposite the US flag, to show them we were fighting together. That’s also “unauthorized” but I got permission from my 4-Star boss,” he tweeted again, later adding that he repeated the action while in Georgia.

The “Make Aircrew Great Again” patches have reportedly appeared in photos in 2018 and 2017.

A helicopter crew chief in July 2018 wearing the patch during Pacific Rim exercises at Barking Sands Missile Range in Hawaii, Stars & Stripes reported. The Pentagon also shared a photo in 2017 of a sailor wearing the same patch.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited service members aboard the USS Wasp on Tuesday at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan to deliver a Memorial Day tribute.

The President was in Japan for four days to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.