Navy Skewered For Posting Picture Of Ship Commander Mishandling Rifle, Using Backwards Scope

Screenshot / New York Post

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The U.S. Navy sustained volleys of criticism and jabs on social media after a photo depicting a ship commander appearing to fire a rifle with its scope mounted backwards was posted on official social media accounts.

The Navy scrambled to delete the photo of Cmdr. Cameron Yaste, commanding officer of an Arleigh-burke class destroyer, after official social media posted the image of him shooting at targets with an M4 carbine with its Trijicon VCOG optic mounted backwards, cap still on, while improperly positioning the firearm on his body, an archived version of the photo available on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service website shows. Official U.S. government social media accounts, military influencers, news outlets, sailors and ordinary social media users mocked the now-deleted photo.

“Thank you for pointing out our rifle scope error in the previous post. Picture has been removed until EMI is completed!” the updated post stated. (RELATED: Navy Orders ‘Deep Dive’ Into Readiness After Massive Ship Deployment Delay)

“EMI” stands for Extra Military Instruction and describes non-punitive measures intended to correct an identified deficiency in a servicemember’s performance, according to Navy guidance.

Other military branches hours later posted photos to their social media accounts of Marines and soldiers correctly firing rifles with barbed captions aimed at exploiting the Navy’s recent misstep.

The Marine Corps, which operates under the Department of the Navy, titled their tongue-in-cheek response “Clear Sight Picture” in reference to the backwards-mounted scope in an Instagram post Wednesday.

“Whoever posted this knew what they were doing throwing shade on the Navy,” one of the top comments read at the time of writing. Stolen Valor, an account belonging to a website that identifies people who publicly lie about their service records, posted about the Marine Corps trolling the Navy on X, formerly Twitter.

On Friday, the service followed up with a similar post prominently featuring a Marine from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) looking through the sights of his M27 rifle equipped with what appears to be a scope like the one mounted on Yaste’s firearm. The cap was visibly removed and the scope facing the correct direction to magnify targets.

“That’s a nice optic,” the official 15th MEU Instagram account commented on the post.

The National Guard joined in the ridicule, captioning their Wednesday post with the side-eye emoji usually used “to draw attention to something the user wants to highlight, especially in situations that involve drama and interpersonal tension,” according to

Anonymous seamen frequenting the Navy-focused subreddit debated whether the gunner’s mate on board or the Navy Public Affairs Office (PAO) headquarters should receive the blame for the “embarrassing” photo. They also poked fun at Yaste himself, speculating someone tossed brass casings in the air for the photoshoot and that Yaste did not actually fire the rifle.

Blog-style military news outlet Task and Purpose joined in poking fun at the Navy, juxtaposing the photo above an image of one correctly depicting a Marine shooting an automatic rifle and asking readers to spot the difference. Commenters pointed out the backwards scope and Yaste’s “chicken arm” positioning.

Even Not The Bee, the real news blog arm of the satire site The Babylon Bee, picked up the story, writing “the Navy quickly deleted the post and replaced it with this status in a massive L all around.”

Zachary Bell, a Marine who runs the popular Veteran With A Sign campaign and social media accounts, also bemoaned the Navy’s blunder on X.

“Maybe the ocean has different rules,” he wrote in replies to comments underneath the post on X.

Dear Mom, I’m Dead, a military comedy account, “fixed” the image by flipping the gun so that it’s aiming behind Yaste, in an Instagram reel.

The Navy’s now-deleted post followed a difficult week, when a secretary-directed report released April 3 found the Navy’s highest-priority shipbuilding programs are one to three years behind schedule.

The photo was taken March 24 by the media team assigned to the USS John S. McCain, which is operating with the U.S. 7th Fleet in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the caption underneath the archived photo. (RELATED: While Eyes Are On The Middle East, The US Navy Has Been Staring Down China Near Taiwan)

“Cmdr. Cameron Yaste, the Commanding Officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), fires at the ‘killer tomato’ during a gun shoot,” the caption reads.

Yaste is a graduate of The Citadel and received his officer’s commission in 2006, according to his biography. He previously served as division officer aboard USS Bataan, weapons and executive officer aboard Patrol Coastal Crew Hotel, combat systems and weapons officer aboard USS Hopper and executive officer aboard the McCain.

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