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Air Force removes pro-police Thin Blue Line flag Facebook photo, apologizes, because it is banned from bases

A "thin blue line" flag. (Joe Warner | NJ Advance Media/TNS)
May 17, 2021

Ramstein Air Base said last Tuesday that it removed a photo of uniformed airmen flying a pro-police “thin blue line” flag during a 24-hour ruck march held in honor of National Police Week. The base apologized for the move and said the photo violated Defense Department policy regarding the types of flags that are permitted to be flown on U.S. bases.

The Ramstein-based 86th Airlift Wing shared, and subsequently removed, photos on its Facebook page of uniformed airmen carrying the black-and-white American flag with a blue stripe symbolizing support for law enforcement during the event held at the German base, Stars and Stripes reported.

The images raised concerns for some members of the community who questioned whether the flag should be displayed on a U.S. military base.

“Really surprised to see such a highly charged political flag being flown on base by airmen in uniform,” a commenter said in response to the original photo posts, according to the outlet. “I thought this was not allowed in uniform. Has this changed?”

Following the backlash, Ramstein Air Base officials removed the photos and shared a statement on Facebook acknowledging the flag violated Defense Department policy.

“Earlier this evening, we shared a series of photos in support of our base Defenders as part of Police Week. Defenders from multiple units participated in a 24-hour ruck/run march to celebrate our Airmen who protect our installation and community. These photos were only intended to show praise for their hard work and military service,” the statement read.  

“The photos did, however, violate the Department of Defense Policy regarding the use of flags on military installations. For this, we take full responsibility. All of our Airmen are our greatest asset, and supporting them requires mutual respect, responsibility, and accountability. We have reviewed policy and will ensure content on Ramstein Air Base’s Facebook page is a true reflection of DoD and U.S. Air Force values.”

The statement referenced a DoD decision made in July 2020 banning all displays and depictions of specific flags.

“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wrote in a memo regarding the policy. “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”

In addition to the American flag, service members and DOD employees are authorized to display only flags of U.S. states and territories, military service branches, general officer flags, civilian flags appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the POW/MIA flag, flags for U.S. allied or partner nations, flags of global organizations with U.S. membership such as NATO, Senior Executive Service (SES) and Military Department-specific SES flags, and flags or guidons associated with ceremonies, commands, units, and branches.

All other flags not specified in the memo remain banned from military installations.