Navy: ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ patch removal order to SEALs a ‘mistake’

Font Size:

Have SEALs been ordered not to wear the First Navy Jack patch, which bears the now tea party-affiliated slogan “Don’t Tread on Me,” or not?

Yes and no.

On Friday, former SEAL Carl Higbie, writing in an op-ed for The Daily Caller, revealed that on Oct. 22 a senior enlisted adviser — identified this week as Jeff Peeler — ordered SEALs via email not to wear the “Don’t Tread on Me” patch.

“WARCOM and GROUP TWO/ONE have pushed out the uniform policy for NWU III and any patches worn on the sleeve. All personnel are only authorized to wear the matching ‘AOR’ American Flag patch on the right shoulder,” the email read. “You are no longer authorized to wear the ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ patch. Again the only patch authorized for wear is the American flag on the right shoulder. Please pass the word to all.”

The Navy pushed back against Higbie’s report in the Navy Times, explaining that Naval Special Warfare personnel are allowed to wear the patches.

“As of September 2013, all Naval Special Warfare personnel are authorized to wear the U.S. flag and the “Don’t Tread on me” uniform patches,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Flaherty told Navy Times. “In the past, NSW did not authorize wearing either patch unless one was deployed or in a work-up cycle. However, NSW recently sought special permission from the Chief of Naval Operations staff to wear the patches within the continental United States.”

A Navy official speaking with TheDC confirmed the policy and explained that Peeler — the senior enlisted adviser who ordered SEALs not to don the “Don’t Tread On Me” patch in an October email — made “an honest mistake” and is being counseled on the correct policy.

“I cannot really guess what was really going through his mind, but someone who is a senior enlisted adviser… you want to make sure that your guys are in line with uniform policy. That is part of your responsibility as a senior enlisted leader. But sometimes mistakes are made,” the official explained.

Peeler did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Follow Caroline on Twitter