The Navy is investigating whether the mysterious convoy of military vehicles seen flying a Donald Trump flag Sunday in Louisville were, in fact, its trucks.
Lt. Mary Kate Walsh, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said Tuesday that it would be “strange for us to have Humvees” but that the Navy Facilities Engineering Command, which controls the motor pool, is investigating.
Another Defense Department spokesman, Maj. Jamie Davis, said Tuesday the vehicles were not being driven by active U.S. military units. He said it’s possible the vehicles were sold to civilians after being retired from active use by the military.
Leigh Neville, the author of the book “Special Operations Patrol Vehicles – Afghanistan and Iraq,” told the Courier-Journal in an email that the four trucks are “ground mobility vehicles,” a variant of Humvees, and that they are assigned to special operations forces.
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Neville, who lives in Sydney, Australia, said the vehicles could belong to the Air Force’s Special Operations Command but are more likely from the Navy SEALs or one of their Special Boat crewmen units.
The four trucks bear numbers that match up with those designated for Navy light trucks in a military guide known as “Management of Civil Engineering Support Equipment.”
Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, told the Courier-Journal on Monday that he thought the vehicles were military surplus and privately owned.
But Neville and other experts noted that they were still fitted with “SATCOM” and VHF antennas and fitted with ballistic glass. “I would be extremely surprised if these were decommissioned,” he said.
Walsh said the Navy is investigating whether the trucks belonged to it based in part on a Reddit post that also observed that the equipment on the trucks would not be used by civilians.
If the trucks were part of a real military convoy, flying the Trump flag would violate directives designed to keep politics out of the military, said Davis, the Defense Department spokesman.
Even though Trump is now president rather than a candidate, one directive says military personnel should avoid implying Defense Department “sponsorship or endorsement” of any “political candidate, campaign, or cause.”
Photos and videos of the convoy were first posted by a new Louisville-based political organization, indivisibleky, that opposes Trump and his agenda.
Other motorists also said they saw the convoy and were disturbed by it. They included Cathy Woodrow, who was driving with her husband from their home in Kalamazoo, Mich., to Florida when they saw a caravan of what she said were 10 military vehicles, the lead one flying a Trump flag.
She said it was heading north on Interstate 65 at the new Abraham Lincoln Bridge. The smaller convoy was reported to be heading south.
The original posting by Carole Puryear of Louisville set off a furious debate on her Facebook page.
One man wrote: “It's the president. He's the commander in chief. Why would soldiers not show respect to him?” A woman wrote, “If they are willing to go to the front lines … let them fly the flag and be proud of the president.”
But another woman responded, “This is a disgrace to our nation. We're Americans, not Trumpians. We're united by our country and our Constitution, not by one man. The American flag represents our country and Constitution; the Trump flag does neither of those.”
Spokesmen for Fort Campbell, Fort Knox and the Kentucky National Guard said the convoy was not theirs.
None of the vehicles had license plates or any markings indicating the military unit.
Naitore Djigbenou, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said military vehicles are exempt from license plate requirements. Operators of civilian vehicles without plates are subject to a fine of up to $250.
Some veterans, including ex-Marine Darren Wolff, an attorney who practices criminal and military law, speculated that the trucks may have been in delivery from a factory to a military post. But a spokesman for the company that manufactures most Humvees, AM General, which has a plant in Mishawaka, Ind., said its vehicles are delivered on transport trucks.