All encouraged to take part in election process

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joe Angel
  • 728th Air Mobility Squadron commander
There I was in the late fall of 1984, a freshman in college experiencing my first year away at school. I was finally old enough to vote in my first presidential election. I had received my absentee ballot, carefully considered the candidates, and diligently marked my choices in accordance with the instructions on the envelope. 

Only one item still needed to be completed. The outside of the envelope either needed to be notarized or my signing had to be witnessed by a military officer. This was an easy choice for me as a notary would have cost $5. I was heading to the Reserve Officers Training Corps training course anyway, so I would just ask my instructor. I knocked, saluted smartly, and presented myself while mentally noting the pack of Lucky Strikes next to the ashtray on his desk. I explained what I needed, and he carefully looked at the envelope. 

Over the years, the exact wording of our conversation has been lost, but I still remember my perception of it. The officer told me: "I'll sign it, but when you are commissioned, you don't need to be doing this anymore." 

He explained officers are sworn by oath to support and defend the Constitution. These officers serve, and are subservient to, the elected civilian leaders, no matter who they are. Therefore, I should not be partial to any President. By choosing a candidate, I was creating a conflict of interest. 

My, how times have changed, haven't they? Can you imagine a similar conversation taking place today? Now, our civilian and military leaders encourage us all to take part and have a voice in the election process. There are still rules we need to follow, but those are not in place to restrict a military member's political freedom, only to ensure there is not a perception of conflict of interest. These rules are covered in Air Force Instruction 51-902, Political Activities by Members of the U.S. Air Force. 

However, as far as the actual vote is concerned, our senior leadership urges us all to exercise that right. 

The absentee voting process is getting easier with each election and any problems are being noted and worked to minimize. The Department of Defense coordinates with the U. S. Postal Service to better serve those of us overseas and our voting needs. 

The Web site is dedicated to Uniformed Services Members and Overseas Citizens and has an abundance of information on how to register and vote via absentee ballot. 

At the local level, Ms. Porsche Hurley, installation voting assistance officer, and her team of volunteers have been doing a full-court press to get information out by setting up booths at the club and Base Exchange, as well as holding various contests to increase awareness of the voting campaign. Additionally, each squadron also has a voting representative who can assist you. 

Just as smoking Lucky Strikes in your office is no longer acceptable, the days of thinking you didn't need to vote if you are in the military are long gone. Don't wait until the last minute; use the resources at hand and register to vote now if you haven't done so already. With roughly four months to go until the genral election, do your part and vote!