Officials found they violated Pentagon rules against troops in uniform making political statements.
The sailors were spotted aboard the USS Wasp on Memorial Day 2019 with the ‘Make America Great Again’-style patches attached to their uniforms.
The red patches show a cartoon Trump-like figure pointing in the manner of Navy recruitment posters, with the slogan ‘Make Aircrew Great Again’. The patches first appeared in 2017.
A spokesperson for the Pacific Fleet said on Thursday that the sailors would be punished as the patches could be viewed as political activity.
Active duty personal are required by Department of Defense guidelines to avoid all political activities and are not allowed to wear political statements on their uniform.
A US Marine wearing a ‘Make Aircrew Great Again’ badge as they listen to US President Donald Trump during a Memorial Day event aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in Japan
Donald Trump (R) arrives aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp to participate in a Memorial Day event in Yokosuka on May 28, 2019, holding the Make Aircrew Great Again patch
Service members were spotted wearing the patches as they listened to President Trump while he spoke to troops at a Memorial Day event aboard the USS Wasp, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Yokosuka, Japan.
Several days after the speech, eighteen sailors and officers assigned to the Guam-based Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron were told that they were suspected of breaking protocol with the patches and an investigation was launched.
Nine of those investigated had attended the speech and their officer-in-charge, a lieutenant commander, immediately confiscated their patches after Trump had spoken.
Wearing an unofficial patch is a common occurrence on military personnel uniforms although they are prohibited from sharing political messages while in uniform.
Instead, patches are sometimes worn with humorous images in an effort to boost morale.
It generally falls to the unit commanders to ensure that any unofficial patches do not violate the military regulations or that political messages do not appear.
Nine sailors wore the patch to Trump’s speech – He is seen here arriving aboard the USS Wasp
President Trump spoke to U.S. servicemen at U.S. Navy multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, a speech which resulted in nine attendees being punished over uniform
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump took photos with military personnel aboard the USS Wasp, where other sailors were wearing the Make Aircrew Great Again patches
The investigation found that the sailors had not intended to make any political statement with the patches but had still broken the rules.
‘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 spokesperson Rachel McMarr said in a statement released Thursday.
McMarr added that the ‘appropriate administrative measures’ would be taken by the Navy to ensure that the sailors and their leaders understood the requirements.
She added that they ‘give due consideration to the heightened risk that actions by service members in uniform will be perceived as an official DoD position’.
The sailors could be seen grouped together wearing the red patches during the speech
The speech took place last Memorial Day 2019 on the USS Wasp in Japan, pictured here
The patches were first spotted in 2017 but have now been ruled to be in breach of the uniform
According the the Department of Defense guidelines, ‘active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.’
Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a memo to service members and civilians employees last week to remind them of the guidelines.
‘All Department of Defense personnel must be steadfast in our commitment to defend the Constitution and our Nation’s democratic principles,’ he wrote.
‘As citizens, we exercise our right to vote and participate in government.
‘However, 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.’