Air Force Base Warns Servicemembers That Exercising First Amendment Could Result in Discharge

Air Force Base Warns Servicemembers That Exercising First Amendment Could Result in Discharge

There are specific rules military members must follow that your typical American citizen generally doesn’t have to concern themselves with. Servicemembers aren’t allowed to publicly speak out against the government in their service capacity or participate in political events while in uniform; they even must exercise caution in the sun as receiving a severe sunburn could be considered damaging government equipment.

It’s true; I skirted the line on that last one after taking a trip to Belize after one of my deployments to Afghanistan. However, servicemembers still have all the same rights as your typical American.

It wouldn’t make much sense to force Americans to lay down their lives for their country, for their Constitution, only to be told the Constitution doesn’t apply to them. And yet, that appears to be what happened at Minot Air Force Base.

A threat

On November 17th, an event in North Dakota near Minot Air Force Base called “Dakota Patriot Day” was planned. The event was going to include a guest speaker from Turning Point Action, a conservative student group.

Leading up to the event, a text message was sent out to base personnel warning servicemembers of possible violence directed at military members and what could only be described as a threat.

The text said:

“Leaders, please execute caution if downtown this weekend.”

The text explains the knowledge of the event happening and describes the guest speaker as coming from “an alt-right organization.” This next part contains the not-so-subtle threat:

“…participation with groups such as Turning Point Action could jeopardize their continued service in the U.S. military.”

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Turning Point Action, while a relatively new organization, has significantly impacted conservative grassroots engagement, particularly with young voters.

According to their website, their mission is to:

“…embolden the conservative base through grassroots activism and provide voters with the necessary resources to elect true conservative leaders.”

Participation in this organization isn’t a crime, provided the servicemembers aren’t in uniform or use their position and rank to promote the organization. And yet, going to this event on November 17th, seemingly regardless of what capacity, could’ve cost Minot airmen their careers?

Whoopsie doodle

It didn’t take long for the public affairs machine at Minot AFB to churn out a clean-up message. A base spokesperson said:

“This message was based on incorrect data and sent outside of official base messaging platforms.”

They went on to state:

“Once the error was identified, base security officials corrected the message traffic to categorize the event as a local political fundraiser, with no security concerns. Further, the updated message communicated there were no issues with military members participating in their personal capacity – in line with their First Amendment rights.”

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That’s quite the public affairs misstep. Could someone inaccurately label the event as dangerous, and could it be that someone sent out a hasty message to base personnel that didn’t receive the full approval of base leadership and the public affairs office?

Sure, stranger things have happened. But what is the better scenario?

  1. Base leadership honestly did consider the event dangerous and did believe servicemembers should be punished for participating in their civilian capacity in a political event.
  2. Base leadership is so inept that they allowed for an environment where such an egregious public mistake could occur.

Stand firm

Congressman Matt Gaetz shot out his own threat after the news of this text message broke:

“Whoever thought sending this message out was a good idea is definitely gonna be answering questions under oath in the Armed Services Committee.”

Let’s hope so. The sad reality is Republican lawmakers don’t seem to be on the same page regarding holding the Department of Defense accountable.

Earlier this month, Senator Tommy Tuberville received vicious criticisms from his party for holding up military nominations and promotions of the DOD’s policy to reimburse servicemembers for travel to abortion-friendly states. To put it plainly, Senator Tuberville is holding up these military promotions due to the unconstitutional act of using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion procedures for military members. 

In other words, he is doing his job, and he is the only person in the Senate doing so.

Senator Dan Sullivan said of what Senator Tuberville is attempting to do:

“As a U.S. Marine Corps colonel, I know we all know here in the Senate, America needs to have our best players, most combat-capable leaders on the field, and right now that’s not happening.”

That hadn’t been happening long before Senator Tuberville took his current stance. Exhibit A would be the Forever War on Terror, followed by Exhibit B the Afghanistan withdrawal. 

Then, of course, firebrand Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene managed to get the House to approve lowering Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s pay from $235,600 to $1. While having no hope of passing in the Senate, the message sent by Congresswoman Greene is clear:

“There’s a loss of confidence in Lloyd Austin’s leadership and he deserves to be fired.”

Between the firing of over 8,000 servicemembers over refusal to take a vaccine no longer required for service, the failures mentioned above in Afghanistan, dismal recruitment numbers, and this recent apparent lapse in leadership at ethics at Minot, reasons to fire Secretary Austin are plentiful.

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The founder and CEO of Turning Point Action, Charlie Kirk, wrote on X:

“The DOD has declared WAR on conservatives. Congress should immediately investigate this absurd, unhinged threat.”

It remains to be seen if Congress will investigate this event or continue to take the flimsy excuses and blindly trust the military to police their own. Something sure doesn’t smell right in the old War Department, and there seems to be a particular rot at Minot.

Earlier this year six leaders were fired at the snowy bomber base, including two Commanders. The reason provided by the Air Force was the typical vague “loss of confidence,” and details will likely remain hidden from the public, as tends to be the case when military leaders are removed from their positions.

This year, the National Independent Panel on Military Service and Readiness found that 68% of servicemembers have witnessed moderate to significant politicization in the military. That same percentage said their experiences will determine whether they encourage their children to follow in their footsteps.

After 20 years of service to my nation, I decided to retire because of the politicization that had infected the five-sided building. While servicemembers are unable to freely speak of what occurs, you can believe that many are penalized, held back, and discriminated against due to their political views, race, and religious beliefs. 

As they say in the service, this latest example of the DOD targeting those within their ranks for not drinking the left-wing Kool-Aid is SNAFU. 

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