In the last few days, a story has emerged in the mainstream media regarding the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community, specifically the SEAL Teams, being ordered to cease and desist wear of the Don’t Tread On Me (DTOM) patch many wear on their uniforms. Although NSW personnel have been ordered to quit wearing the patch on their left arm immediately, there is more to the story and the background isn’t what is being discussed in the mainstream. You are being told half-truths by people who don’t know what they are talking about. This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with getting the paperwork done.
Roughly two years ago, East Coast-based NSW units began working with one of the manufacturers, authorized by contract to produce items in AOR1 and AOR2, to develop an Identify, Friend or Foe (IFF) patch which would incorporate the new NSW patterns and IR material. The intent was to create US Flag patches which could be worn in garrison, but incorporate the IR sheet material found in traditional IFF flag patches worn down range by all services. The intent of this was to reduce the cost associated with buying multiple types of patches and keep the uniform looking professional. In the process of working on the laser-cut US Flag patches, the manufacturer was asked if it was possible to use the same process in order to create a Don’t Tread On Me patch for personnel to wear.
In the midst of developing the new flag patches, the Navy rolled out the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type II and III with Velcro on the shoulder pocket flaps. Ironically, there was no provision in the Navy Working Uniform Manner of Wear regulation allowing flag patches to be worn outside of tactical, training, or deployed situations. As a result, the uniform looked somewhat ridiculous with bare Velcro. Once the prototype laser-cut AOR1 and AOR2 patches were ready for evaluation, the East Coast-based NSW Group sought authorization to wear the reversed US Flag on the right shoulder and DTOM on the left because the patches were made of the same material as the uniform and looked more professional than leaving one or both shoulders bare Velcro.
Fast forward two years and like all things, people begin to take notice and ask, “Why are they doing that?” In this case, NSW never fully ran the issue of wearing patches in the NWU to ground and eventually someone noticed the community was not technically complying with the uniform regulations. As a result of the NWU regulations never being updated to reflect authorization to wear the patch in garrison, the cease and desist order issued by direction of Naval Special Warfare Command, is enforcing the actual uniform regulations issued by the Navy Uniform Board.
There is no conspiracy here folks; no one in the Administration is attributing the patch to extremist groups or anything of that nature as some recent stories have indicated. And for anyone who thinks that is the case, if you take a look at the bow of any US Navy ship today, tomorrow, or next week, you’ll see the Navy Jack flying which is the same flag represented by the Don’t Tread On Me patches in question. This recent issue of patch removal is just the NSW Senior Enlisted community doing what they are supposed to do, enforcing the uniform regulations until those regulations are changed or modified through the proper process. But have no fear, the order to stop wearing the patch does not apply to wear in tactical, training, or deployed environments.
Update WARCOM sent out an email that the issue has been resolved and NSW personnel may wear the Navy Jack both in CONUS as well as deployed. The decision was directed by ADM Losey and approved by the MCPON. The WARCOM clothing instruction will be updated.