One of the best things about the military is its subculture and sense of humor. If you give any group in the military any leeway at all in regard to uniform wear, even the slightest bit, the chances are good that they'll make jokes out of it. One such tradition is the morale patch. Usually worn during deployments and on aircrew, the morale patch is worn solely by the designation of a unit commander. They often make fun of some of the worst, most boring, or most defining aspects of a career field.
Recently, some Naval aviators got into hot water by wearing patches that may have been a little too close to political.
It's not as if this is the military's first Trump joke.
Many of the best morale patches often have a pop culture element to them. Some of them may have some kind of inside joke, or technical jargon. In the patch above, for example, a UARRSI is part of an aircraft's in-flight refueling apparatus, specifically on the receiving end.
Unfortunately for the Navy aircrew sporting the red patch and the "Make (blank) Great Again" joke, using an image of the President's 2016 campaign slogan might be a little too political for the Navy's top brass, with or without the "p*ssy" joke the Air Force used in the second patch above. No matter what the reason, the military is increasingly concerned about U.S. troops and their acts of political affiliation in uniform.
Trump signed signature red "MAGA" hats for deployed troops during a New Years visit in 2018. What concerned brass then was that the White House didn't distribute the hats, troops already brought them.
The Pentagon's Uniform Code of Military Justice states "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." This expressed line may be the cause of the Navy's ire with the red Trump aircrew patch.
It's possible that the aircrews were making a political statement, but it's much more likely that the reference to the President and his 2016 campaign slogan is a pop culture one. Trump's revival of the old 1980 Reagan election theme has permeated American culture since Trump adopted it and made it his own. Even the President's detractors use some variation of the MAGA line to insult the President and his policies.
The problem is this time, U.S. troops were seen by members of the media sporting the patches during an official Trump visit to the USS Wasp in Tokyo Bay. The image of troops wearing the patch went viral, and people who don't seem to know about the morale patch tradition called it "more than patriotism" and "inappropriate."
President Trump delivers a Memorial Day speech aboard the USS Wasp.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Shorter)
The Navy downplayed the patches officially, calling them "old news" but acknowledged it was conducting an inquiry to determine if the move was an overtly political act.