A civilian contractor working with the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan has been fired after video footage posted online this week showed him wearing a white nationalist “Kekistan” flag patch on his helmet.
Sgt. 1st Class Debra Richardson, spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told HuffPost in an email Tuesday that the man worked for the Virginia-based aviation consultant company MAG Aerospace.
Richardson declined to identify the man, but said he was “immediately terminated” by MAG Aerospace “for a violation of company standards” and “is scheduled to depart Afghanistan today, Sept 25.”
Earlier this week, footage of U.S. and Afghan air crews training to fly a UH-60 helicopter in Kandahar province was posted to the website of the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, which produces videos for the Department of Defense.
The video shows the unidentified contractor sporting a “Kekistan” flag patch on his helmet. The flag, developed in racist 4chan chat rooms, intentionally mimics the design of the German Nazi war flag, with the Iron Cross replaced by the 4chan logo, the swastika swapped out for the “KEK” symbol and the German red replaced with “Pepe the Frog” green.
White nationalists have waved the Kekistan flag at racist rallies across the country in recent years, including at the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
On Sunday, freelance journalist Joseph Trevithick tweeted a screenshot from the DVIDS footage that showed the contractor wearing the Kekistan flag. A short time later, DVIDS removed the video from its website. A version of the video, however, was posted to YouTube.
Richardson told HuffPost that MAG Aero requires its employees to obey “any and all rules and regulations devised by the U.S. Army.” The army follows DOD policy, which, “under the Hatch Act, prohibits partisan political activity of civilian employees while they are on duty,” Richardson said.
“The wearing of the Kekistan flag is a form of partisan political activity and wearing it while on duty, violated the Department of Defense policy,” she said.
MAG Aerospace did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told HuffPost in a statement that neither the American military nor Resolute Support — the NATO mission to assist Afghan troops in that country— “support the symbology in this patch or any racist garbage.”
“We’re joined together with 40 other nations across the globe helping the Afghans fight terrorism,” Butler said. “We don’t have time or patience for bigotry.”
Last week, a report from the Government Accountability Project, published in The Daily Beast, documented the rampant bigotry among employees of Sallyport Global, a military contracting company the U.S. government has paid $1 billion to operate the Balad Air Base in Iraq. The Sallyport Global employees in Iraq — many of them white, pro-apartheid South Africans — shared racist and anti-Semitic Facebook videos made by the white supremacist David Duke, a former grand wizard in the Ku Klux Klan.
White nationalism isn’t only a problem among the ranks of private contractors hired by the U.S. military. In 2017, a survey published by the Military Times found that 25 percent of active-duty service members in the U.S. armed forces said they have encountered white nationalists in their own ranks.
Earlier this year, a ProPublica report exposed an active-duty Marine as having connections to the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, and as having participated in the violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Lance Cpl. Vasillios Pistolis was kicked out of the Marines in July.