Airmen prohibited from participating in political events

  • Published
  • 377th Air Base Wing Legal Office
The following column is a fictional story as part of the “JA Kirt” series, and is intended to provide brief legal guidance to Airmen.  For more information on the issues presented in this column, please see AFI 51-902, Political Activities by Members of the US Air Force.

Hi there, my name is Kirt, an employee at Kirtland AFB.  Boy, do I have a story to tell you.  It all happened last night when I was driving home from work.  As I was leaving the base, driving my ’88 Ford Taurus, I drove into a massive Anti-Trump demonstration.  The protesters were holding up signs saying “Not my President,” “He’s a Tyrant,” and “Dump Trump.”

Once those protesters saw me leave the base, they were so angry that they lifted up my car, turned it 180 degrees, and told me to go back the other way.  Luckily, I wasn’t injured, but the protestors plastered anti-Trump signs all over my classic car.  Also, I’m pretty sure that I recognized a few of the protestors.  I noticed two Airmen in civilian clothes passing out flyers, and another Airman in her ABUs.  One Airmen was also giving a speech to the crowd.  I heard him say the President was “insane” and had to “get out of town.”

After seeing the Airmen, I got to thinking about the political activities lecture that I received at Basic Military Training.  For your benefit, I looked up what political activities are permitted, and which are not.  

Members of the armed forces are authorized to attend rallies and other events as a spectator when not in uniform.

However, members may not participate in partisan political rallies or other events under any conditions, including while in both civilian clothing and military uniform.  It is important to note that participation is anything more than mere attendance as a spectator.  Participation includes marching in a political parade, speaking, displaying political signs at a rally, or anything that would create the appearance of support for the political cause.

Article 88 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice make it a crime for any military member, enlisted or officer, to use contemptuous words against the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, or Congress.

Back to those Airmen I saw at the rally.  All of them were violating Air Force rules by attending the rally because they were participating in a political rally.  As military members, we are not allowed to take any action that would communicate support for a partisan cause.  Only attendance as a spectator is authorized.  Additionally, military members are not allowed to attend these events in uniform.  Most importantly, making contemptuous statements against the President, our commander-in-chief, is punishable under the UCMJ.  As military members, we are held to a high standard because the American people have placed their trust and protection in us.