Update: Based on new information, some conclusions in this article have been updated here.
Every now and then members of the military post official articles that might best be understood as “public service announcements” for their fellow troops. They often cover high interest issues (like politics, social media, and religion, see below) or regulations that are the topic du jour. Unfortunately, because these articles carry no weight (unless they are written by a senior Air Force leader issuing official guidance), they can often add confusion to the issue they mean to clarify — especially if they’re wrong.
For example, a Public Affairs troop recently wrote “Rock the vote, but beware of guidelines,” which was a combination of encouraging voting while cautioning on the restrictions on political activity: Read more
An official Air Force article cautioned military servicemembers from reading too much into the “one time exception to DOD policy” that let uniformed troops arch in a homosexual parade:
Recently, media interest has focused on the one-time exception to Department of Defense policy which allowed service members to march in a pride parade in uniform.
All military members must keep in mind that Read more
Some may have assumed that with a Democratic President (and the stereotype that the US military leans Republican/conservative), most of those testing the limits of permissible political activities or commentary would be “right wing” or conservatives.
They would be wrong.
The blog for the Rock Beyond Belief event organized by Justin Griffith at Fort Bragg recently posted an article about North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which would modify the NC State Constitution to say the only domestic legal union in the state is Read more
US Marine Sgt. Gary Stein will reportedly be administratively separated with an “Other than Honorable” discharge as a result of his “political” Facebook activities:
The Commanding General for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego…has approved the board’s recommendation that Sgt. Stein be separated from the Marine Corps with an “other than honorable” discharge.
The Sgt’s case is so high profile the Marines took the unusual step of Read more
The Department of Defense put out an unusually rapid (and blunt) assessment of US Army Corporal Jesse Thorsen’s stint at the Ron Paul rally a few days ago. In an article that covered the general restrictions of military service and political activities, the DoD said
A combat engineer assigned to the 416th Theater Engineer Company potentially violated these rules Jan. 3 when he stepped onto a stage at Ron Paul’s headquarters in Ankeny, Iowa, during the Iowa Caucus to offer a personal endorsement.
However, it also specifically noted Thorsen was not on active duty at the time, contrary to the CNN reports at the time: Read more
Update: US Rep Mike Hoffman (R-CO) has said troops need to be reminded of the rules involving political participation. As noted below, there were already some official military articles on the subject.
US Army Corporal Jesse Thorsen made a name for himself Tuesday night, for better or worse. He appeared on CNN and onstage endorsing the political candidacy of Ron Paul while he was wearing his Army fatigues.
Unlike the mystical machinations of Chris Rodda, in which she says military officers violate regulations when they express their faith on the internet, there is actually an explicit Department of Defense Directive on this type of conduct (barring an unknown mitigating factor on the Corporal’s part). From DoDD 1344.10 (Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, found here), an active duty military member “shall not” Read more
Recently, an email from an officer announcing a Bible study at Kirtland AFB was the subject of a complaint from Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation, leading to the question here, “Can a military officer advertise a Bible study?”
Some relevant quotes from the original complaint, as sent to (and publicized by) the MRFF by an enlisted Airman:
During the past 6-7 months a unit commander, who is now the Deputy Group Commander decided to send mass e-mails to the wing regarding bible study sessions. These are sessions that were led by the individual sending the e-mails…a person in a command position, clearly a conflict of interest. A lot of us expressed concern about the perception that leadership is endorsing what should clearly be a chaplain endorsed and led activity.
Just imagine the following scenario… if you were a young Airman wanting to look good for a Below the Zone package, the Deputy Group Commander is leading a bible study, a young impressionable person might Read more
The following email recently took a turn around the “religious complaint” circuit:
From: [ ] LtCol USAF AETC 58 OG/CD
To: 58 SOW All Personnel
Subject: 58 SOW Bible Study: Every Wed, 1200-1300 in the TRS Auditorium
You are invited to a weekly 58 SOW Bible Study on Wednesdays, from 1200-1300, in the 58 TRS Auditorium-a Chaplain-sponsored event. If you are interested, read below for more details: Read more