To the Soldiers and Airmen of the South Carolina National Guard,
This year, as we enter an election cycle, it is important for all South Carolina National Guard Soldiers, Airmen, and eligible Family members to feel free to exercise their right to register, vote, and express their opinion on political candidates and issues. While exercising these rights is an important part of being a citizen, it is also important to avoid any action that could imply endorsement of a political party, political candidate or campaign by any element of the Department of Defense. With that in mind, all service members must have an understanding of what they can and cannot participate in as a member of the South Carolina National Guard. As a currently serving member of the South Carolina National Guard, things to be mindful of include:
1. Do not endorse, sponsor, or advocate that other military members vote for a specific candidate or party
2. Do not attend political activities in uniform or publicly endorse a campaign, whether in a duty status or not
3. Do not use a federal building, government phone, or laptop for political purposes or activities
4. Avoid any pictures of you and a political candidate while in uniform
5. Do not use your military position to advocate or advance a candidate or party campaign
6. Understand that what you post, like, and share on social media can still violate DoD policies and regulations
Act as though someone is always watching, remain professional, and follow the above guidelines both in day-to-day life, as well as with your online presence. Remember, your actions as a member of the South Carolina National Guard are viewed as the opinion of the organization, which hinders our ability to remain an apolitical organization, and violates existing policies, laws, and regulations. However, it is also important to understand your rights as an actively serving military member:
1. You may have yard signs at your residence that identifies your candidate, as well as bumper stickers on your personal vehicle
2. You may contribute to a campaign of your choice, as long as you are not identified as a sponsor
3. You may attend a campaign event as a spectator, not in uniform; however, do not provide support to the candidate through communications at the event
4. Encourage others to vote, without suggesting how or for whom
For more information on the limitations for military members, you can reference DoD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, and the Hatch Act; AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, chapter 5; and AFI 51-508, Political Activities, Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly of Air Force Personnel. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions here: https://www.defense.gov/ask-us/faq/Article/1774809/what-is-the-policy-for-participating-in-political-campaigns/
If there is ever a time you are unsure of what you are able to participate in as a service member, please contact your unit's judge advocate for guidance.
I highly encourage all Soldiers and Airmen to exercise their right to vote and participate in the nation's political process, but be responsible and knowledgeable of the laws, regulations, and policies that govern the actions of currently serving military members.
Thank you for your service to our state and nation.
R. Van McCarty
The Adjutant General
for South Carolina