Reservist Endorsing Paul: At least he didn’t go Forrest Gump!

With all the coverage from Iowa, you probably know about this one:

Army Reservist in Hot Water

An Afghanistan war veteran is in trouble for giving a political speech while in uniform at a caucus night rally with Ron Paul on Tuesday in Iowa.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Reserve told TPM on Wednesday that Cpl. Jesse Thorsen may have violated military policy when he wore his fatigues on stage and praised the Texas congressman’s presidential bid.

Thorsen’s commander is now looking into the speech and will figure out what to do next, said the spokeswoman, Maj. Angel Wallace.

The Des Moines-based soldier served in Afghanistan but hasn’t been on active duty since October, Wallace said. However, he still serves a weekend a month and two weeks a year as a reservist and may be deployed to Afghanistan again in about a year.

Thorsen seemed awestruck to stand alongside the Republican candidate on Tuesday, telling the crowd it was “like meeting a rock star.” He praised Paul’s anti-war stance.

“His foreign policy is, by far, hands down, better than any candidate’s out there. And I’m sure you all know that,” the reservist said. “We don’t need to be picking fights overseas and I think everybody else knows that, too.”

The crowd cheered, but observers who know military law cringed.  (read more)

Sorta reminded me of this gem: (UPDATE: Remind me to listen to the video before linking!)

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJ_yQ02xwsM]

I’m no legal expert, but  think it is more the “being in uniform” bit that is the issue, as technically he was not on duty at the time.  Several JAG types have locked horns over on DoctrineMan’s Facebook page.  But as such discussions usually devolve into a black hole of particulars, I’ll just say its some legal thingy.

Back in my day, you just didn’t even talk politics – in or out of uniform – save perhaps the security of your own house or at dinner with a trusted friend.  There are fine officers who received a “2” in the OER block for judgment just because they got a little sloppy at the bar while discussing non-military current events.  It was a flat n0-no.  Not even a sign on the lawn or bumper sticker. While I can’t speak for the whole, generally that rule applied across any government office.  Govies might get away with bumper stickers or lawn signs, but certainly avoided endorsements during business hours.  However I did notice some, shall we say, allowances made in the 2008 season.

It is a gray line: a solider has the right to have and express an opinion on politics, but when does that expression become endorsement?  At least in my day, our sense of military professionalism and ethics kept personnel well away from that gray line.  And I think the same holds true today.  But Thorsen certainly crossed a couple of strides past that line.

But there’s another angle here too.  Recall that Ron Paul served in the military.  Yes, Air Force flight surgeon for about four or five years.  But still he should have recognized the situation as improper.  Just sayin’.

As for Thorsen, I think his world will get a lot more complicated over the next few weeks.  If ever there was a place to say, “That’s all I got to say about that.”

9 thoughts on “Reservist Endorsing Paul: At least he didn’t go Forrest Gump!”

  1. well, I guess I can delete the draft I was working on.

    This action was completely unacceptable, and Thorsen damn should have known it. The lawyers at DM may be arguing the finer points of law, but as a soldier, it’s pretty simple. You may not appear at any political event in uniform (you may, however, vote while in uniform). And while soldiers have the right to participate in partisan political activities, they are prohibited from making any statement that uses their status as a soldier to imply that the military in any way endorses or supports a candidate, party, or issue.

    I’m unclear on the legalities of how Reservists are treated, in terms of consequences, but it is crystal clear that there needs to be some.

    1. It’s spelled out in AR 670-1 plain as day. Reservists and National Guardsmen are held to the same standards on occasions for proper wear of an Army uniform.

      Cpl. Jesse Thorsen needs a boot up his ass for being this dumb.

    2. AR 670-1, Paragraph 1-10, Sub-paragraph j.

      Wearing Army uniforms is prohibited in the following situations:
      (1) In connection with the furtherance of any political or commercial interests, or when engaged in off-duty civilian employment.
      (2) When participating in public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies, or public demonstrations, except as authorized by competent authority.

      To make it even more clear, Paragraph 30–7 deals with Reservists and National Guardsmen specifically:
      When wear of the uniform is prohibited:
      The wear of the Army uniform by ARNG, USAR, retired, separated, and civilian personnel is prohibited under the circumstances listed in paragraph 1–10j.

    3. Well, of course, but AR 670-1 is not a punitive regulation. My question was more under which article of UCMJ would the infraction fall (134?) and what his status as inactive duty would do.

      At a minimum, the contention that sustained wall to wall counseling is called for is quite correct.

    4. Yeah, I realized what you meant on the second read-through, after the red disappeared from my field of vision. I can virtually guarantee him losing at least one stripe for this, it doesn’t take much to reduce someone for inefficiency. If Quartermaster’s post is accurate (I have no frame of reference for the reserves, I’ve been NG my entire career), then in addition to article 134, I think articles 98 (Noncompliance with procedural rules) and 92 (Failure to obey order or regulation) could be used if they wanted to make an example of him.

      My money is on a Field Grade Article 15 and loss of rank, though.

    1. Occasionally, political appointees forget this rule entirely, as they got their offices in “payment” for having worked on the campaign. I can’t remember if it was under this administration or the previous one, but at GSA, a political appointee held a meeting and discussed how things ought to be done to help their political party. I’m pretty sure it was under the current regime, but political appointees tend to not know the rules and make mistakes regardless of affiliation.

      This Corporal was a fool. Wearing the uniform implies that the military supports the candidate while saying exactly the same thing in civvies does not. He did it to imply added meaning to what he was saying and he should be punished for that reason. If he hadn’t been in uniform, he likely never would have been asked for comment as he’s just another random voter.

  2. I note the post says the Corp was USAR rather than ANG. It makes a large difference as the ANG is not under the UCMJ unless they are called to active Federal service. In Tennessee we complained because the General Sessions Court (the lowest level of state courts which handles the traffic stuff and misdemeanors) had jurisdiction for offenses of the ANG. Too many of them would pat the trooper on the back and tell them they had been naughty and don’t do that again.

    Army Reserve is a different case. My son told me he was under the UCMJ every time he put on the uniform and went to drill or his AT. I was as well when I was in the Naval Reserve. I’m sure there will consequences for him. If he had been ANG, then the punishment would be more problematic unless he was from a Democrat dominated state, then they’d probably hang him by a certain part of his anatomy.

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