Again, the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community finds itself in the spotlight because of recent policy passed down from senior leadership to remove the “Navy Jack” patch from their uniforms.
When I was with SEAL Team ECHO in 2001, prior to pushing forward into Afghanistan, we had a brief stop in Kuwait and participated in several non-compliant ship take-downs in support of U.N. sanctions against Iraq (oil smugglers, mostly). We soon found out that the crews of these vessels referred to us as the “White Devils.” We embraced it and the hate we had towards those that would visit harm on America and her citizens.
I designed the patch below to represent that moment in time and it became our official platoon patch. It’s inappropriate on purpose, and we all loved it. Had I known the SEALs would explode in popularity in the coming decade I may have filed for copyright protection (insert laugh out loud). Since 2001, it has been copied and re-sold on countless websites, but I do have the satisfaction of being the original designer.
Image: Knock-off of the original 3 ECHO patch
The current drama surrounding the Navy Jack is purely politically driven. It’s either been pushed from the top down by politicians, or there’s political concern that senior leaders inside NSW have regarding perception.
The US military has had a long history of unit logos, and patches, it’s a tradition that spans over a hundred years. Admittedly, some in the past have been over-the-top inappropriate and racially offensive. In the 90s, we saw the military take on a more professional approach, and there was widespread unit logo clean-up that was both necessary and appropriate. The Navy Jack’s “Don’t Tread on Me” isn’t in this category. It represents American history and Navy tradition. This is similar to the Polish symbol featured below and worn by many in the Polish Special Ops community. It represents the Polish resistance against Nazi Germany, and is a symbol of pride and historical significance.
Bottom line: Taking away this patch will have a negative impact on morale and create (short-lived) discontent among many SEALs who’ve worn this with pride in some of the worst places on earth. To me, it represents a disturbing trend of the type of political correctness that is associated with careerism and risk adversity. Hopefully, someone will stand up and do the right thing, but then again, hope is not a strategy.