The media, to include social media, has worked itself up over a U.S. Space Force 3-star General relieving one of his subordinate commanders because of a “lack of confidence” in that subordinate’s ability to lead. But, if one is a General Officer/Commander and you no longer have confidence in, trust, or question a subordinate’s actions, there is no other realistic option.
Space Force Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lohmeier was relieved of his position as Commander of the 11th Space Warning Squadron by Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, the head of the Space Operations Command. According to Military.com, this “was based on public comments made by Lt. Col. Lohmeier in a recent podcast.” According to that same source, Lt. Col. Lohmeier was a 2006 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and thus, expected to exemplarize the Academy’s “core values” which are “Integrity First. Service Before Self. Excellence in All We Do.”
Lohmeier’s sins? They appear to be cumulative.
First, he self-publishes a book entitled Irresistible Revolution: Marxism's Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military, identifying himself as an active duty officer.
Second, he accused the U.S. military in a podcast of implementing “leftist practices,” and said that its diversity training “is rooted in critical race theory, which is rooted in Marxism.”
As an Academy graduate and an active duty Field Grade officer, one would have thought that he would have some background in military law in general, and Air Force history in particular.
And, finally, took aim at the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin (himself a retired 4-star general), saying. "I don't demonize the man, but I want to make it clear to both him and every service member this [diversity and inclusion] agenda, it will divide us, it will not unify us."
But, as an Academy graduate and an active duty Field Grade officer, one would have thought that he would have some background in military law in general, and Air Force history in particular. Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — a criminal statute — prohibits in relevant part “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President . . . the Secretary of Defense . . . shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Note the use of the word “shall.” That is reinforced by DoD Directive 1344.10, paragraph 4.1.3, which states “ Commissioned officers shall not use contemptuous words as prohibited by section 888 [Article 88, UCMJ] . . . .” Finally, Air Force Instruction 1-1, entitled Air Force Standards, notes in pertinent part, at paragraph 2.13, “because you are a member of the United States Air Force, the manner in which you exercise your rights is limited in some cases. Under our democratic system, the military, as a group, must remain politically neutral and divorced from partisan politics. . . .” Paragraph 2.13.1, accentuates the fact that “Article 88, UCMJ, prohibits commissioned officers from using contemptuous words against the President . . . [or] the Secretary of Defense . . . .” There is no ambiguity here and the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that the “Free Speech” of active duty servicemembers may constitutionally be regulated.
As to history in the Air Force of the so-called “diversity training,” Lt. Col. Lohmeier appears to be sadly ignorant. Some of us were around in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the U.S. military was plagued by “race riots,” notably at Travis AFB, CA, onboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, and at Camp Lejeune, N.C., to give a few examples. In 1969, as a result, the Air Force instituted its mandatory “Social Actions” program which addressed “diversity” within the Department. Over the years, and something one would expect a Squadron Commander to know and support, it’s been re-branded as the Air Force’s Diversity and Inclusion program, governed by AF Instruction 36-7001.
A commissioned officer — especially one who is a commander — who in good conscience cannot support official DoD and Space Force policies and programs has one choice: resign your commission and take your crusade out of the active duty military. In all professional and organized militaries, policy flows downhill, not uphill from a Lieutenant Colonel to the Secretary of Defense.
Donald G. Rehkopf, Jr., Esq.
Military Religious Freedom Foundation