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Navy punishes sailors who wore 'Make Aircrew Great Again' patches during Trump speech
The Navy has punished a group of sailors over the wearing of patches that said "Make Aircrew Great Again" during a 2019 speech by President Trump on the USS Wasp.
Gina Harkins of Military.com obtained a copy of the investigation into the sailors' conduct, which found that although the sailors were not trying to make a political statement, the wear of the patches — which bore Trump's likeness — went against military rules against partisan political activity.
Known as Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, the rules allow service members to vote, express their opinions on politics, or even take part in political rallies so long as they not be "reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating the Department of Defense ... with a partisan political activity," which can be the case when they are in military uniform.
Nine sailors assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 were seen during the speech wearing the patches on their flight suits, according to Military.com, which reported an undisclosed number of sailors and leaders involved in the incident received nonjudicial punishment. Although NJP may result in a loss of pay, rank, or being placed on restriction, it was not clear what nature of punishment the sailors ultimately received.
The Navy opened a probe into the incident in May 2019 after crewmen sported the patches as Trump made a stop aboard the Wasp during a four-day visit to Japan. During that same trip, further controversy erupted after it was learned that the White House had requested the Navy keep the USS John McCain "out of sight" during the president's visit, a plan that was later scrapped.
The Navy is not alone in trying to tamp down on partisan activity while in uniform. An Army major in the South Carolina Army National Guard came under scrutiny in August 2019 after she wore her military uniform while attending a political rally for former Vice President Joe Biden.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote a department wide memo urging service members to steer clear of politics and abide by the apolitical tradition of the U.S. military. "Maintaining the hard-earned trust and confidence of the American people requires us to avoid any action that could imply endorsement of a political party, political candidate or campaign by any element of the Department," Esper wrote.
Seventy-five years ago Wednesday, Fred Reidenbach was aboard a Navy patrol craft loaded with radio gear, helping to coordinate the landing at Iwo Jima, a volcanic island the U.S. military hoped to use as a staging area for the eventual invasion of Japan.
Reidenbach was a 22-year-old sergeant with the 4th Marine Division from Rochester, New York, and recalls that it was cold that day. The Marines were issued sweaters, heavy socks and 2.5 ounces of brandy to steel them for the task ahead: dislodging 21,000 Japanese soldiers from heavily fortified bunkers and tunnels. Reidenbach wasn't a drinker but didn't have trouble finding someone to take his brandy.
"I passed it on to somebody who liked it better than me," he said.
Though the Army has yet to actually set an official recruiting goal for this year, leaders are confident they're going to bring in more soldiers than last year.
Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, told reporters on Wednesday that the Army was currently 2,226 contracts ahead of where it was in 2019.
"I will just tell you that this time last year we were in the red, and now we're in the green which is — the momentum's there and we see it continuing throughout the end of the year," Muth said, adding that the service hit recruiting numbers in February that haven't been hit during that month since 2014.
KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.
Active-duty service members, Reservists and National Guard members often serve side-by-side performing highly skilled and dangerous jobs, such as parachuting, explosives demolition and flight deck operations.
Reservists and Guard members are required to undergo the same training as specialized active-duty troops, and they face the same risks. Yet the extra incentive pay they receive for their work — called hazardous duty incentive pay — is merely a fraction of what their active-duty counterparts receive for performing the same job.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-3 of Moorestown, are partnering on legislation to correct the inequity. Known as the Guard and Reserve Hazard Duty Pay Equity Act, the bill seeks to standardize payment of hazardous duty incentive pay for all members of the armed services, including Reserve and National Guard components.
Another Marine was hit with jail time and a bad-conduct discharge in connection with a slew of arrests made last summer over suspicions that members of a California-based infantry battalion were transporting people who'd crossed into the U.S. illegally.