Political activity DOs and DON'Ts for Reserve Airmen

  • Published
  • Air Force Reserve Command

In our democracy, elections are quite common, and with a presidential election this year, we can expect many opportunities for citizens to participate in the democratic process. With this in mind, it is important to be aware of specific political activities guidelines that apply to Reserve service members.

All Service members are encouraged to undertake all acts of citizenship, including voting and participating in the political process. However, all reserve service members also have a duty to ensure that their personal activities do not imply official endorsement by the Department of Defense or Department of the Air Force. As individuals, we do not have to be politically neutral, but the Air Force does. The political activities policies outlined below help to ensure the DoD and the DAF as institutions do not influence or appear to be partisan in our nation's electoral process.

Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, and individual service regulations outline permitted and prohibited political activities by active duty, Reserve component, and retired service members. These rules regulate how and when service members are able to participate in the political process. Service members who violate these directives could face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and/or other criminal or administrative penalties.

Service members are encouraged to participate in the political process, but they must be careful about not engaging in political activities in the workplace and not using their official positions to advocate for or against political issues. With the directives set forth in DoDD 1344.10 and other regulations in mind, reserve service members should be aware of what they can and cannot do regarding political activities in and out of military status. The below do’s/don’ts are not exhaustive, and service members and employees should consult with their servicing legal office with any questions regarding their personal political activities.

Reserve Service Members Running for Civil Office:

What is a civil office?

  • An elective office
  • A Presidentially-appointed position
  • A position on the executive schedule
  • A civil office in a State, District of Columbia, a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the US, or any political subdivision

Reserve service members ordered to active duty for more than 270-days CANNOT be a nominee or candidate for civil office, unless the Secretary of the Air Force grants permission. For these Reservists on duty for more than 270 days, if SecAF grants permission – the service member CANNOT hold or exercise the functions of that office while in military status.

Reserve service members ordered to active duty for 270-days or fewer CAN remain or become a nominee for civil office (and exercise the functions/hold that office) provided there is no interference with the performance of their military duty.

When running for civil office, members not in military status (or ordered to active duty 270 days or less) CAN:

  • Use rank/grade/affiliation, but must clearly indicate their Reserve status
  • Include or permit the inclusion of their current or former specific military duty, title, or position, or photographs in military uniform when displayed with other non-military biographical details
  • But! The reserve service member must include a clear and prominent disclaimer when invoking their military status

When running for civil office, members not in military status (or ordered to active duty 270 days or less) CANNOT:

  • Use or allow the use of photographs, drawings, and other similar media of themselves in uniform as the primary graphic representation in any campaign media
  • Depict or allow their depiction in uniform in a manner that does not accurately reflect their actual performance of duty

Per DoDI 1334.01, Wearing of the Uniform, all service members are prohibited from wearing their uniform during or in connection with furthering political activities, regardless of their status. DoDD 1344.10 and DAF Instruction 51-508 otherwise require reserve service members to be in a military status for the following provisions to apply. These statuses include active duty and inactive duty for training.


CAN: All service members can vote, register to vote and encourage others to vote. Airmen may also fully participate in the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

CANNOT: Use your influence or authority to force others to vote or to interfere with the outcome of the election.


CAN: Join political clubs and attend meetings, rallies, fundraisers, debates, and conventions, when not in uniform and not on duty.

CANNOT: Take part in political activities while on duty, in uniform, or as an official representative of the Air Force, or use Air Force property and resources for political purposes. Airmen are never permitted, on or off duty, to join or participate in groups that advocate a supremacist ideology or aim to deny civil rights to individuals.


CAN: As a private citizen, and not an official representative of the Air Force, you can sign petitions, display one bumper sticker on your private vehicle, wear political accessories or apparel when not on duty or in uniform or in a federal building, and write a letter expressing your views to editor of newspaper (if you clearly state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Air Force or the DoD).

CANNOT: Display political signs or banners other than a bumper sticker on your private vehicle, display signs and banners on base housing, and commissioned officers can’t use contemptuous words against the President and other elected or appointed leaders.


CAN: Follow and post, like, share, or retweet a message in support of or opposition to a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group when not on duty, and not in the workplace.

CANNOT: Do any of the above as an official social media account of the Air Force, use your military rank or official title when posting, or post links to partisan sites or links to partisan fundraising sites. Don’t use social media accounts that are designated for work purposes in your official capacity to engage in politics, and don’t send messages to subordinates that are about partisan politics.


CAN: Attend and participate in protests, demonstrations, and similar activities when CONUS, off duty, and not in uniform.

CANNOT: Attend such activities in foreign countries, if such participation includes illegal activity like a breach of the peace, or if the activity is likely to cause violence.


CAN: Make monetary donations to political organizations and committees.

CANNOT: Exceed the contribution limits stated in 2 U.S.C. § 441a, solicit donations online or in the workplace.


CAN: Serve as an election official (poll worker) in a non-partisan capacity when you have the SECAF’s approval.

CANNOT: Serve as an election official in a partisan capacity, or when in uniform, or when it would interfere with military duties.

Service members are encouraged to review DoDD 1344.10 and DAFI 51-508, Political Activities, Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly to understand permissible political activity. 

All members are encouraged to review the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s Feb. 15 2024 memorandum on political activities, available at: https://dodsoco.ogc.osd.mil/Portals/102/Documents/Political%20Activities%20Docs/2024%20DSD%20Memo%20on%20Political%20Activities.pdf?ver=cn0AKGr7lW7iEmpLRuuAUA%3D%3D.

The information in this article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice.  For further assistance or if you have questions or concerns, please contact your installation legal office.

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