Watchdog Group Protests Army Aviation Unit's 'Crusaders' Name, Cross

Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment at Fort Rucker.
Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment at Fort Rucker.

A week after a religious watchdog group claimed victory for the removal of a Christian Crusader knight image from an Army unit sign in Hawaii, it is now demanding an Alabama-based Army unit stop using the "Crusaders" name and cross as its symbol.

Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment at Fort Rucker provides the Army's 32-week initial helicopter pilot training. The white shield, with the word "Crusaders" inscribed across the arms of the red Crusader Cross and the silhouette of a helicopter in the upper left, appears on a company sign and on training certificates.

"You'd think with everything we're trying to do [in the Middle East], they'd know not to do this," Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said on Monday. The Crusader name and symbols are viewed negatively by both Muslim allies and enemies, Weinstein told Maj. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Rucker.

"This shocking utilization by your command of this weaponized imagery representation of historic Christian sectarian warfare and brutality is just PLAIN WRONG both as a matter of law and as a practical matter," Weinstein wrote in his letter, a copy of which he provided to Military.com.

A spokeswoman for the command confirmed Weinstein's letter was received "and we are working the issue."

Weinstein told Military.com that he contacted Lundy after hearing about the Crusader imagery from military and civilian personnel at Rucker, most of them Christians but also members of other faiths or no faith. Weinstein does not identify anyone who contacts him because they fear retribution, he said.

In his letter to Lundy, Weinstein noted that the training unit also instructs members of foreign militaries, "including among them possibly [pilots from] predominantly Muslim countries."

Using the name "Crusaders" and the "Crusader Cross" image "only exacerbates the outrage of this sordid matter," he told Lundy.

The Army last week responded to a similar argument Weinstein made over a sign depicting a sword-wielding Crusader Knight by the Warrior Training Center of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, by removing the image.

"In light of the concerns that you brought to our attention, the sign was removed from the building, and the image of the sign was also removed from the article on our unit web page," Col. Phillip Mead, deputy commander of the 8th TSC, told Weinstein.

The Crusader shield currently used by the Rucker unit has history with the Army. A slightly different version of the shield -- with crossed lances behind the cross -- was used by the 187th Assault Helicopter Company during the Vietnam War.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

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