Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Grunt Style.
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy is investigating a haul of t-shirts students received this year, apparently for free, according to a Wednesday report from U.S. Army W.T.F.! Moments.
To celebrate their cohort, the military-themed clothing company Grunt Style worked with the academy to design a shirt for class 68 — but according to the report, the school received more than 700 of the shirts for free, despite the shirts retailing online for $24 apiece.
“The incident in question is under investigation,” USASMA spokesman David Crozier told Army Times on Friday.
Citing the investigation, Crozier declined to elaborate on the situation, including what type of investigation was underway or whether any of the details reported on social media were accurate.
Grunt Style did not immediately respond to a query from Army Times.
In a subsequent Facebook comment on the Army Times page, Mike Birt, the company’s chief marketing officer, wrote that the company “did not donate anything to this class at the Sergeants Major Academy.”
“We completed, and were paid in full, an order for 674 shirts,” Birt wrote, adding that the custom order was completed using bulk pricing, which is lower than individual retail pricing.
“An outside benefactor, that we will not name because we do not disclose customer info to the public, stepped in and paid for the purchase for the students. That individual made the decision to donate, again, not Grunt Style,” he wrote.
Birt added that as of late Friday, the Army had not contacted the company as part of its investigation.
The Sergeants Major Academy, based at Fort Bliss, Texas, is an institution of military higher learning, where the Army’s promotable master sergeants complete a 10-month course before they become sergeants major.
The report alleges that the academy did not do a legal review before accepting the donation, which totals about $17,000 in retail value, raising questions of a conflict of interest between the Army and a company that would benefit from a relationship with the service.
Birt, in his response, wrote that “the value of that donation was not $17,000. ... To compare the prices of items for individual purchase to the prices of large bulk purchases is unfair and inaccurate.”
According to Defense Department rules, employees are not allowed to solicit or accept a gift from a person or entity that’s seeking official action or does or seeks to do business with the department.
DoD employees also aren’t to solicit or accept gifts given because of the employee’s official position, according to a PowerPoint briefing on DoD ethics rules relating to gifts.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.