I am a senior field grade U.S. Army Warrant Officer, still serving, now in my 36th year of service with numerous deployments; I offer this letter as a fellow American citizen. Recently returning to my homeland of Acadiana, I saw billboards for Louisiana House candidate District 3, Greg Ellison. Attention to a man in any U.S. military uniform must not be drawn to a political ad; such a self-serving act dishonors the selfless service for which our uniforms stand. Such a self-serving act deliberately intends to play upon the well-deserved endearment that the local Acadiana folk have for our military and Ellison should be ashamed of himself.
Acadiana, a community unfamiliar with military customs and regulations, needs to know that among those who wear the uniform daily, we separate ourselves from Ellison’s exploitation of our uniform and his citing of a military career that ended more than 13 years ago. On the billboard, he is wearing the Army Mess Blue uniform, a formal uniform equivalent to the civilian tuxedo, rather than any of our operational, utility uniforms; and in that photo, his hair length appears to be outside of Army regulation.
His website opens to “Lt. Col. Greg…”, with “Ret.” (retired) blended with the red color on the last line, notwithstanding that he uses the Air Force abbreviation for lieutenant colonel rather than the proper Army abbreviation of “LTC.” This is Ellison’s clear assertion that his military record is to be considered forefront rather than anything he’s done since; so I’ll oblige in the examination of his website biography.
He asserts that he “..served in every level of command from platoon through Corps.” Nothing is said about being a commander, at any time; ask him whether he has ever served as a commander, at any level, having sole responsibility for the care and welfare of soldiers. He next cites his “…noted thesis…” while a SAMS Army student; ask him if that thesis was and is a standing course requirement rather than anything selectively noted. He cites his combat experience as a staff officer in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield/Storm. Saudi Arabia was the rear area replete with comforts unavailable to the warfighters looking down the barrels of the enemy in Kuwait and southern Iraq, well forward of Ellison. He then asserts that he “…planned and supervised the execution of nine artillery raids, forward of friendly lines into Iraq.” This is more selective vocabulary. He was careful not to say that he led or commanded but “supervised.” Staff operations officers do not supervise any combat operation — commanders do. And any and all raids of any U.S. military nature are always forward of friendly lines, but Ellison apparently remained well to the rear in Saudi Arabia. As to the awarding of medals for this actions, it is unclear whether he is asserting that medals so high in hierarchy were both for actions in Saudi Arabia or were either associated with a remarkably common retirement medal award.
Ellison will likely defend his wearing of the uniform in support of his political campaign by citing Department of Defense Instructions; I am well familiar with those but no policy or instruction trumps a service regulation that makes it more stringent; that is a long-standing regulatory interpretive tradition and he knows it. Let me explain. DoD can issue broad regulatory guidance; a service such as the Army may then make it more stringent so as to promote its own sense of order. The current Army Regulation (AR) 670-1 at paragraph 3-7 expressly prohibits the wearing of Army uniforms in connection with the furtherance of any political or commercial interests. This same regulation also directs specific occasions upon which uniforms may be worn by retirees. Ellison will likely counter with asserting that he is not wearing the uniform for such but is rather providing a photograph of himself in uniform; I assume that depends on what the definition of “is” is.
Fairness compels me to provide more about myself. I am a registered Republican. I am a conservative slightly right of Attila the Hun. I do not vote in Louisiana as I am no longer a resident of my homeland. I was the last U.S. Special Forces commander out of the Anbar Province in 2011 and I’ve seen combat from behind the windshields of Army helicopters and from behind the sights of my rifle. I would have nary an exception to Ellison, his political aspirations nor his campaign were it not for his exploitation of the U.S. Army uniform. I attempted to contact Ellis Roussell of the Ellison campaign by email and telephone clearly stating my concerns; to date, no one from the Ellison campaign had the courtesy to respond.
To Mr. Ellison directly: Please place that honorable uniform in your closet and move out upon what you’ve done lately and what you intend to do — period. American military service is a calling, but it is voluntary one.