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Military rules prohibit partisan political activity

Posted November 4, 2008

— While both John McCain and Barack Obama and many other political candidates have publicly expressed support for U.S. troops throughout their campaigns, none of the troops living on post at Fort Bragg can return the favor.

Army Regulation 600 prohibits active-duty military members from displaying signs for or against individual candidates or other public expressions of partisan political activity.

"We are soldiers. We are the U.S. Army. We work for the president. We work for the U.S. population. We cannot be seen as favoring one candidate over another," Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said.

Bumper stickers are allowed because soldiers' vehicles are considered private property, but yard signs are prohibited under the regulation. Several soldiers living on post put up political signs this year, but Picerne Military Housing, which manages military housing for Fort Bragg, sent them letters asking that the signs be removed.

"I think it's a little frustrating because you do want to show your support. You want people to know your opinions," said Kristina Clemente, whose husband is stationed at Fort Bragg.

"We don't allow the signs because someone in a supervisory position may use that sign to influence others," McCollum said.

Military members are also prohibited from working for campaigns – including running for office – or attending political rallies in uniform. On Election Day, they are encouraged to vote, but they still can't advertise who they're supporting if they are in uniform.

"It's just the way it is," said Helen Jiminez, who lived on Fort Bragg for years but moved off post when her husband retired from the Army.

"We're off post, and I have my signs, and I proudly display them," Jimenez said.

Other political do's and don'ts for active-duty military members include the following:

  • Soldiers can contribute to political campaigns, but they can't contribute to another member of the military or any civilian authorities to promote a campaign or political cause.
  • Soldiers can work at a polling place when off duty and with permission of a superior, but they can't be in uniform.
  • Soldiers can express their personal opinions in letters to the editor of a newspaper, but they cannot take part in an organized effort to promote a candidate.
  • Soldiers cannot solicit funds for a candidate, promote fund-raising events or participate in any get-out-the-vote effort for a particular party or candidate.

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  • SemperFi... Always Nov 4, 2008

    I can appreciate the troops supporting McCain & not wanting to leave Iraq & I can also appreciate the many troops supporting Obama. Long gone are the days when the military was majority Republican & it's ok...

  • ridgerunner Nov 4, 2008

    And if they had not joined to O club they would be passed over for promotion and soon out of the snob group called officers, no matter how good at their job they were.

  • rushbot Nov 4, 2008

    When I was on active duty it was against regulations for anyone to engage in coercive behavior to force us to join the Officer's Club. It was against the law for anyone to attempt to effect a change in someone's voting behavior. Whenever I would move from one Air Force Base to another, I would always receive a personal visit from a senior officer who had a list of the officers who were not members on the O Club. This person would say that he had been tasked by the Wing Commander (the MFWIC) to find out why someone had not joined. No one ever asked me anything at all about voting other than offer to help me with absentee voting.

  • ajsmall83 Nov 4, 2008

    When we sign up to serve we give up those rights so you can have them! Also the troops I talked to are for Mc Cain and do not want to be yanked out of Iraq! We want to come home but not without a win! This is coming from troops that have been there for tour upon tour!

  • chfdcpt Nov 4, 2008

    And? My father retired after 30 years in the Army, and it was the same then as it is now. Campaign signs have never been allowed on any part of the base, especially in the military housing. Remember, that most of the militar housing is the officers and senior nco's that run the units; and it could be seen as influencing. It's just one of the many little quirks of life in the military in general.

    The same way that you don't see any political signs at the fire stations and police stations or town halls, unless they are polling stations.

    Isn't it so wonderful, that the folks that volunteer to defend us at the risk of their lifes don't have the same rights that we are so used to outside of the gate?

  • colliedave Nov 4, 2008

    GI = government issue