Airmen could be in hot water for greeting Trump at the airport in military uniform
Shortly after 1 p.m., Donald Trump’s social media director Tweeted out a video of the candidate greeting about 20 uniformed airmen apparently from MacDill Air Force Base gathered outside his campaign plane, which had landed at Tampa International Airport for a campaign stop. After bounding down the gangway, Trump walked over to the airmen, embraced a few and stood in the middle flanked by the airmen and posed for pictures.
“We are at Tampa International Airport & some heroes wanted to say hello to @realDonaldTrump. #AmericaFirst #TrumpTrain #MAGA,” Trump social media director Dan Scavino Jr. wrote in the Tweet, which was retweeted more than 3,300 times and liked more than 5,400 times.
But while the campaign was lauding the service members, it may also get them into hot water.
Military members are prohibited by Defense Department rules from attending campaign events in uniform.
“Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause,” reads DOD Directive 1344.10. “Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering. Active duty members may, however, express their personal opinions on political candidates and issues, make monetary contributions to a political campaign or organization, and attend political events as a spectator when not in uniform.”
Base officials are now “reviewing the video and images to discern if there were any joint ethics violations,” said Terry Montrose, a spokesman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the base host unit. “More information will be released as it becomes available."
The 2016 presidential election has become so heated that Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently wrote an article in Medium reminding troops to chill and remember their “obligations as military professionals.”
Supporting a candidate? Very cool. Doing so in public while in uniform? Not so much.
“Every member of the Joint Force has the right to exercise his or her civic duty, including learning and discussing — even debating — the policy issues driving the election cycle and voting for his or her candidate of choice,” Dunford wrote. “Provided that we follow the guidance and regulations governing individual political participation, we should be proud of our civic engagement. What we must collectively guard against is allowing our institution to become politicized, or even perceived as being politicized, by how we conduct ourselves during engagements with the media, the public, or in open or social forums.”
The airmen, largely non-commissioned officers, appear to be from MacDill Air Force Base because at one point, the camera pans across the flightline and shows KC-135 aerial refueling tankers in the background. The planes have been moved from the base while its runway is being resurfaced.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a call and email seeking comment.
Regardless of what the airmen were thinking, at least someone believes they are showing support for a political candidate.
By 7:25 p.m., someone Tweeted a photograph of the airmen with Trump.
“Sgt Kevin McGrath & his unit at MacDill AFB , Tampa, FL proud to support next POTUS @realDonaldTrump,” wrote @nperrondmd.