US Navy Mocked for Photo of Commander Shooting Rifle with Scope Backwards

When shooting a PR photo, it can be important to pay attention to small details. The US Navy learned that lesson the hard way recently after sharing an Instagram photo of a warship commander shooting a rifle — gun-savvy viewers immediately noticed that the scope had been put on backwards.

The since-deleted photo was published to Instagram back on April 9th with the caption “Highlighting the amazing work of our U.S. Navy Soldiers. From engaging in practice gun shoots, conducting maintenance, testing fuel purity, and participating in sea and anchor details, the #USNavy is always ready to serve and protect.”

It was also tagged with the hashtag #Readiness.

The since-deleted Instagram post by the US Navy. Image via Reddit via Business Insider.

More information about the shoot was shared through the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service page for the photo (which has also since been deleted).

“Cmdr. Cameron Yaste, the Commanding Officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), fires at the ‘killer tomato’ during a gun shoot,” the description states of the image created on March 24th. “The ship is in U.S. 7th Fleet conducting routine operations. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.”

Killer tomatoes” are large, orange-colored surface targets used by the US Navy for live-fire exercises.

People soon took to social media to point out the fact that the rifle’s scope was pointing the wrong way, meaning it would be useless for magnification and aiming.

“Jokes on you as this is how you can shoot backwards in time,” writes entrepreneur Wayne Culbreth.

What’s more, in a blunder that some photographers may be able to relate to, the lens caps appear to have been left on the front and back of the scope.

Even the US Space Force briefly joined in on the mockery before deleting its response from X.

The US Marines then posted its own take of the same photo concept in an apparent response to the US Navy image. Titled “Clear Sight Picture,” the photo shows a marine shooting a rifle on board a US Navy ship — the scope is mounted the right way and the lens caps are off.

“Obviously an embarrassing photo for the commanding officer of a vessel to have posted, but let me play devil’s advocate and offer a defense I haven’t seen mentioned yet,” writes journalist Sam Shoemate. “The selector is set to auto. He wasn’t engaging in any kind of training or target practice. Someone handed him a rifle and he flipped it to auto and dumped a mag. I think he would have quickly noticed the scope turned around had he been doing any kind of meaningful training.

“This is a PAO [Public Affairs Officer] blunder all day long. Then again, maybe a CO should have the wherewithal to pay attention to detail himself. Either way, this is little more than a photo op gone bad, and my opinion doesn’t matter.”

After taking down its photo, the US Navy published a replacement post that included a thank-you to eagle-eyed viewers.

“Thank you for pointing out our rifle scope error in the previous post,” the Navy writes. “Picture has been removed until EMI is completed!”

EMI stands for “extra military instruction” and is “a proven training technique used to correct a deficiency in an individual’s performance of military duties,” the Navy explains. “EMI is non-punitive and must be logically related to the performance deficiency for which it was assigned and may be assigned only if genuinely intended to accomplish that result.”

It’s unclear whether the statement is referring to training Commander Yaste in using a rifle or to training the team of Mass Communication specialists who were responsible for shooting and sharing the photo.