In a statement, U.S. Air Forces Europe said the Airmen who were photographed having “Make America Great Again” hats and at least one having a “Trump” flag were not in violation of Department of Defense policies barring active-duty personnel from engaging in partisan political activity while in uniform.
"There is no rule against Airmen bringing personal items to be signed by the president," USAFE told Stars and Stripes.
The service members had President Donald Trump’s merchandise for him to sign when he was visiting Ramstein Air Base on the way back from visiting troops in Iraq.
Trump flag (she dropped it after she saw me taking a photo) pic.twitter.com/LhPwUNdEK3— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) December 27, 2018
He also signed MAGA hats for service members in Iraq:
Trump signing MAGA hats for the troops in Iraq pic.twitter.com/bDUIk94jpR— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) December 26, 2018
"Any time the commander in chief offers the opportunity to meet with Airmen, such as this official holiday visit by the President and First Lady, Airmen are welcome to participate. No policy violations have been brought to our attention at this time," the command added.
After the photos circulated on social media, many have said the Airmen could be in violation of DOD policy and concerns of politicization of military:
Video footage and the written report of Trump's visit with service members in Iraq showed signing of hats and a "Trump 2020" patch.— CNN (@CNN) December 27, 2018
But troops' requests for the autographs could brush up against Department of Defense guidelines for political activities. https://t.co/jUUqF91bcX
NEW—> Trump’s visit to Iraq prompts concerns about politicization of military.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) December 28, 2018
My latest with @PaulSonne on Trump signing #MAGA hats and taking partisan shots before uniformed troops https://t.co/Gk5Xxd328o
There are myriad reasons for both a Department of Defense and an Army Regulation against military personnel participating in or showing allegiance to ANY political party while in uniform. Good commanders enforce; good NCOs jerk a knot in the asses of those who violate.— Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) December 27, 2018
Per the DOD, some “examples of political activities that are prohibited include campaigning for a candidate, soliciting contributions, marching in a partisan parade and wearing the uniform to a partisan event.”