Air Force general calls himself out for wearing upside-down ribbon rack during State of the Union

| February 7, 2019

A key characteristic of a good leader is one’s ability to put pride aside and admit one’s own mistakes.

That’s exactly what Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, did Wednesday when he shared with the social media masses a gaffe he committed while attending President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address.

Looking at the photos that emerged from the Trump’s address, Gen. Lengyel made an observation that may still be contributing to some internal groaning on his part.

He wore his ribbon rack upside-down.

The general took to both Twitter and Facebook to proactively highlight the slip-up.

“I missed it… Plain and simple,” Gen. Lengyel wrote. “I hope this is a lesson for everyone who wears the uniform, and really for anyone… They put erasers on pencils for a reason. When you make a mistake or miss a detail, own it and move on.”

I have seen the Combat Action Ribbon backwards so many times I am no longer sure which way is correct anymore.  I tried the “I made a mistake, that’s why there are erasers on pencils” during several NJP’s … nobody told me it was an Air Force thing.  When I was a young Marine working my way to Private for the second time, how was I supposed to know what a Tech Sergeant in the Air Force looked like?  I was trying to be an Ambassador of goodwill by spending some time with a few local ladies when this blue guy with squiggles on his arms interrupted me.  He should have brought more friends, Air Force uniforms confuse Marines.  I should have been a General.


Source: Air Force general calls himself out for wearing upside-down ribbon rack during State of the Union

Category: Dumbass Bullshit, Military issues, Veterans in the news

Comments (66)

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  1. Comm Center Rat says:

    Meanwhile the CNO sits quietly to the far left sporting a rack with only his three highest awards. I’m willing to chance that an Admiral or a General has the highly coveted National Defense Service Medal without actually seeing it displayed. Although, sometimes I’m curious to know if a general earned his Air Force Training Ribbon.

    • Club Manager, USA ret. says:

      I believe it is appropriate for someone to elect to wear only their highest three awards. Shows humility to me. A TDY Army colonel who visited our office at CINCPAC Special Ops would announce his arrival by kicking the door open and shouting “Another day in paradise”, only wore one ribbon. A little blue thingy with white stars.

      • Honor and Courage says:

        I remember the days when everyone had to report in class A uniform. You knocked on the Orderly Room door and waited outside at parade rest until you were sent for. In my case I was introduced to 1SG by the clerk and was Inspected for personnel appearance and Uniform. He review my 201 file on the spot and questioned all miss badges and awards. I they had not been issued you were sent to supply for appropriate issue requests forms. You will wear all badges and awards IAW with regulations( officer and Enlisted got the same treatment). By 1972 this was all gone and you could show up in uniform of choice.

    • Jus Bill says:

      WAIT – the USAF now awards ribbons for TRAINING?

    • Ret_25X says:

      I’m good with only wearing high 3 medals…


  2. Tallywhagger says:

    Haha! “I’ll rip your heads off” ROTF

  3. thebesig says:

    On or about 0200 on 18 Feb 1979.

    Beer? :mrgreen:

  4. Dustoff says:

    “Aim High” Air Force.

  5. Ex-PH2 says:

    Oh, Dave Hardin, you bad, bad, bad, bad, BAD boy.

    Whatever will we do with you?!?!?!?!

    You know where the floor buffer is? Good. Put it to good use.

  6. Jeff says:

    As another 80’s era Marine, may I say to you that was friggin awesome!!! I just had hip surgery and I laughed so hard I thought I was going to split my staples!!! I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the same thing during my two tours! Just outstanding Marine!

  7. 5th/77th FA says:

    Used to be a reg where you were supposed to wear all awards and decorations. Saw many a Warrior who would only wear their CIB “the only award that means a shit.” Had a few get chastised for that and would grumbling put the “rack” on.

    Guess a NG Starred Rank don’t wear it enough? Got in a hurry? His aide-de-camp/dog robber needs schooling? Best to own it, poke fun at yourself before everybody else does.

    • sj says:

      My Bud (RIP) only wore his CIB and his DSC.

      • Skyjumper says:

        Once had a 1SG in my Company that had been awarded a Silver Star for his actions in Viet Nam, but never wore the ribbon because he didn’t believe in wearing a higher award than the Company Commander was authorized to wear.

        Top was a stand-up NCO for other reasons also.

    • rgr769 says:

      In my battalion in Germany we had a number of senior O-3’s and other officers with CIB’s, many only wore their CIB’s and jump wings on their khaki shirts; Maj. C.Q. Williams (MOH) was one of them. Even in Greens with his full ribbon rack he never wore the medal with ribbon around his neck. Most of the been there done that guys didn’t seem to want to talk about their combat service.

  8. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    I will rip your heads off

    I’m just rolling here….Goddam it Hardin you glorious heathen bastard you made my day….

    • Dave Hardin says:

      I had no idea what being contemptuous meant. They were the ones with the nightsticks. I was innocent, I swear.

      • GDContractor says:

        That’s not the way you are supposed to do it! You are supposed to say: “That was me as a young, ignorant man 40 years ago. I have grown during the intervening years and changed my way of thinking. That is not the man that I am today.”

        Come on Dave, get with the program. Dare ya!

        • Dave Hardin says:

          Oh, ya … um, that too.

        • Outcast says:

          What only 40 years ago, dang you are youngens as here am trying to remember if it was 52 or 54 years ago. It’s the pits when you start life with a pea brain and slowly lose it.
          Dave you must have one of those fancy dictionary’s as mine here has very few words in it that has more than 6 letters, contemptuous, gotta remember that word, ought to impress them old gals at the bar next time I go there. Older than dirt here and my minute knowledge is still expanding.

      • ChipNASA says:

        Being a Marine, I’m surprised you can understand it, pronounce it or even SPELL it.

  9. Graybeard says:

    It was just a minor misunderstanding – of course.

    Laughing at the youthful follies of glorious bastards, and chuckling at the not-so-youthful follies of general bastards.

  10. Lurker Curt says:

    I love the part where you said “Air Force uniforms confuse Marines…”
    I went to my son’s boot camp graduation at MCRDSD- after the ceremony we were making a plan for the day when he ignored an Army Bird Colonel and damn near immediately saluted (very smartly, I must say) an Air Force Master Sergeant…called me a dick when I laughed while correcting him.

  11. Dennis - not chevy says:

    I first asked myself who puts the small arms expert marksmanship ribbon on the top row. I must admit my second thought when I saw it during the state of the Union speech was, “Oh my goodness, a phony vet got admitted to the speech.”

  12. Doc (FMF) says:

    Put your rack on upside dow ?

    I think the AF has a ribbon FOR that.

  13. Ret_25X says:

    wait a minute….how can you tell if USAF medals are upside down?

  14. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    None of the other military folks around him spotted it? Or no one told him?

    • Dennis - not chevy says:

      Which leads to the question, would they have given the same pass to an E-3? One of the General’s fellows should have taken him aside and said, “Oh by the way, who dressed you this morning?”

      • Mason says:

        No brotherhood at that rank apparently. Just inward chuckling that the chief of the National Guard is going to look like an idiot. Politicians in uniform.

    • Hack Stone says:

      Maybe the other Generals punked him when he took it off for a long distance head call.

  15. FatCircles0311 says:

    In this age I can only assume it was on purpose to make a political statement but nobody caught on and he’s trying to play it off. I can’t believe otherwise. It’s too stupid.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      There is wisdom in:

      Never attribute to Malice what can easily be explained by Stupidity.

      • Outcast says:

        Yep us USAF both regular or guards are just worthless fuckups, just ask any Marine.

        • 11B-Mailclerk says:

          The man -said- he screwed up. So, was it “stupid” or “malice” ?

          I assume the AF types are human like the rest of us. I work with a couple of former AF folks. One is an absolute treasure of professional competence. The other has recently stepped hard on his crank, again. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt that it was poor thinking, not malicious.

          You didn’t really read what I said, eh?

  16. Mustang Major says:

    Wonder if the upside-down rack was a form of protest?

  17. TomG says:

    It really is an easy uniform to understand though. Same officer rank as Army and Marines. As for the enlisted, count the stripes (squigglies) and add one. There aren’t even any warrant officers. No crazy badges, bars, qualifications for the most part. Just name, rank, occupational badge and some upside-down ribbons.

    • MI Ranger says:

      Yeah, but the names kill me: Airman in waiting, Senior Airman, Technical Sergeant, Best Bud…
      Army is simple until you throw in the Specialist rank: Private, Private Second Class, Private First Class, Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Sergeant First Class, Master Sergeant (And we call all any Sergeant less than the First Sergeant just Sergeant), First Sergeant, Sergeant Major!

  18. francositalianarmy says:

    TBH, I think AR -670-1 doesn’t apply to generals. maybe is same for USAF

    • francositalianarmy says:

      Found it in 670-1. At least for Army generals prescribe there own uniform.

      Applicability. This regulation applies to
      active and retired Army, Army National
      Guard of the United States (ARNGUS)
      and U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) personnel. It does not apply to generals of the
      Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army, or
      former Chiefs of Staff of the Army, each
      of whom may prescribe his or her own

  19. Oldogface says:

    Note! Not a Purple Heart among them…….

  20. John Wright says:


    Could happen to anyone. A very sharp USN service member put her rack on the right side, evidently used a mirror while putting stuff on. Corrected her before an awards ceremony at USTRANSCOM Scott AFB. That was 10 years ago. Now I’m questioning whether I knew what I was talking about since the USN sailors wear medals and ribbons on both sides.


    • jon spencer says:

      If a sailor is wearing medals, then award ribbons without a medal go on the right side.
      ie, Good Conduct medal on the left and a Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon on the right.

  21. Mark Olson says:

    I remember showing up for my second assignment in Germany in 1987, a member of the E4 mafia and all I had to show was a ASR!

  22. Billy says:

    Once walked around Fort Drum wearing my jump wings above my CIB. Sharp E-4 corrected the not-so-sharp Captain….