Military mum on election

Caitlyn Wachovec

Freedom of speech collides with ROTC

Family, friends and co-workers may be debating politics in the days leading up to the presidential election – but not military personnel.

Many members of the military hold back opinions about political and religious beliefs for reasons set by the military, in addition to their own desire to stay neutral.

Lt. Col. Joseph Paydock said he refrains from taking a public standpoint, but he said “getting a cup of coffee and talking about it” is something different.

Sgt. 1st Class Rick Hanson said while an officer is in uniform he or she represents the Armed Forces. What is said or done by an individual in uniform is often directly associated with the military.

Contracted Army officers are allowed to attend political rallies in uniform, Hanson said.

Sgt. 1st Class Brian Porter said members of the military can display political signs in their yards and wear partisan T-shirts as long as they are not in uniform.

“We’re really not supposed to have that stuff in our offices, though,” he said.

There are no indications of bias anywhere in the ROTC building.

Paydock, who admits to being passionate about politics and this election specifically, said he thinks people are too uptight about their opinions today.

“You’d think people now would be a little more liberal about expressing their opinions,” Paydock said. “It’s worse now than I’ve ever seen.”

Because the majority of the cadets are not contracted yet, they have more wiggle room to talk politics than their contracted counterparts.

ROTC Cadet Jessica Wilson said she doesn’t think there are too many subjects that are off limits. Wilson’s vote for this election is geared toward one subject: the war.

“One of the biggest issues for me is college,” Army Cadet Cody Maughan said.

Maughan said he is voting one way, but he is still unsure about the candidates’ higher education plans.

Both Wilson and Maughan are in their second year of the ROTC program, which means they still have two years before they can be contracted. Wilson said it’s usually the cadets who are further in the program and closer to being contracted that don’t talk as openly about politics.

ROTC Cadet Craig Gilli said cadets are citizens with the right to speech, but ultimately all military members have to respect whomever is commander in chief.

Porter said although student cadets have more freedom of public opinion because they are not contracted, they still have to follow the rules of the military while in the program.

“They are students too,” Porter said. “They have the freedom of speech.”

Contact ROTC reporter Caitlyn Wachovec at [email protected].