Protests and the Wear of the Military Uniform

It is an iconic image; service members in their OD Green uniforms protesting on the Capital lawn in Washington D.C. Political figures were forced to face both civilians and service members who were upset with the direction the country was going. The protests had the desired effect in the long run and the government changed its course and left Vietnam. Times have passed and the political scene is a very different one today. Unfortunately, when we turn on the news, it seems there is never a lack of protests going on around the United States for one reason or another. It is therefore important to understand what a service member is authorized to do in regards to these protests and rallies, as well as how they are to act.

Right of Expression

The underlying premise is basic: Defense Department Directive 1325.6 states that “Service member’s right of expression should be preserved to the maximum extent possible […] No commander should be indifferent to conduct that, if allowed to proceed unchecked, would destroy the effectiveness of his or her unit.” Translation: express yourself, but do not bring discredit to the military while doing so. So how far does the regulation go? Let’s look at both sides of the coin.

Regulations While in Uniform

Service members are encouraged to vote and express personal opinions in regards to political candidates and discussion, but they are not to be seen as a representation of the military as a whole.  Service members may feel free to join partisan and nonpartisan political groups, as long as they do so out of uniform.  Members can sign petitions, include their name in lists, and be an advocate for a concept as long as doing so does not obligate the service member to participate in partisan activity and is performed as a private citizen.

The other side of the coin is quite clear. The following activities are unauthorized: Participating in partisan activity beyond being a spectator (holding office, fundraising on behalf of, making speeches), the use of official authority to influence the outcome of an election, debate, or political discussion. Speaking at political parties and advocating for one side or the other is unauthorized as well.

What You See Isn’t Always Accurate

So what about recent protests in Baltimore? What about images of a service member in uniform at the protest? It ignited a firestorm of anger by people who felt wearing his uniform during the protest was a violation of the regulation. As it turns out, he works and lives nearby and was on his way home when the photograph was taken. The good news is that it shows people are aware of the regulations and are enforcing it.

For those who have recently separated from service, remember that the regulation applies to anyone in the Irregular Reserve (IRR). When you join the military, regardless of the time served before you ETS, a service member owes a minimum of eight years towards an active duty obligation. Upon separation, if the service member has served less than the mandatory eight years, they will be transitioned to the IRR until such time as the eight years are complete. Accordingly, members of the IRR can and have been recalled to active duty to face punishments or have their discharges reassessed.

Final Remarks

So next time you see a protest, rally, or political event, do yourself a favor and take off the uniform and ensure you are in compliance with the rules and regulations of the Department of Defense. Be a voice of common sense in the crowd and support the governmental process here in the States.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.

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