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Daugaard in Uniform: Got a Problem with That?

In our discussion of the odd policy decision by the Daugaard Administration to scale back the portfolio of the Lieutenant Governor position based on a personal decision by the current holder of the job, a minor kerfuffle erupts over Dennis Daugaard's taxpayer-funded photo op tour of Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Commenter Robert Cordts finds offense in the Governor's donning of a military jacket:

I just think members of the Daugaard administration are liars. Daugaard was wearing an Army uniform (BDU) the other day in Afghanistan while doing a television interview. I realize that he is commander-in-chief of the SD National Guard but I think it is a stretch for him to wear the uniform of the armed forces. Wearing leather and chaps to promote the Sturgis rally is one thing but putting on the uniform of the armed services is another. Has he ever served in the military? I have not found any information indicating that he has. Daugaard is either pretentious or deceitful &ndash I don't know which is worse [Robert Cordts, comment, Madville Times, 2012.04.20].

Commenter Troy Jones defends Daugaard's sartorial security sense:

FYI: High value targets (Senators, Governors, etc.) who go into hostile territory are often advised/required to wear BDU's for security reasons. My memory is a bit fuzzy as it was 30 years ago. But I remember a picture of a Senator or Congressman (guessing maybe Bill Bradley or I think his name was McMillan who was also a former NBA player) who went to Lebanon/Israel during that conflict and he was wearing BDU's (looked like capris) and dress shoes because they didn't have pants and boots that fit him. It was hilarious looking but the purpose was security.

Don't know if that played a part in the Governor's attire as I don't know what threats the Governor was under but it wouldn't surprise me [Troy Jones, comment, Madville Times, 2012.04.20].

Cordts appears to be referring to images from this Wednesday KSFY report. Let's check KSFY's video of Governor Daugaard's interview from Kabul:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard in Kabul
Gov. Dennis Daugaard in Kabul, Afghanistan, from KSFY remote interview, April 18, 2012

Gov. Daugaard says he is speaking from the International Security Assistance Force headquarters after a full day out and about at a "forward operating base." The interview appears to be a planned indoor event, certainly not some cameraman's scrum on the fly. The Governor wears a military coat with his name, a U.S. flag, and Guard insignia.

Now compare that with other photos from Daugaard's globe-trot:

Governor Dennis Daugaard in Kuwait
Governor Dennis Daugaard visits South Dakota National Guard troops in Kuwait, April 17, 2012. Photos by SDNG Sgt. Jessica Geiger

Governor Daugaard appears outside in civvies with uniformed soldiers. The South Dakota National Guard says these photos are all from Kuwait. Kuwait is not currently a war zone; Afghanistan is. The Governor said in his video interview from Kabul Wednesday that he had not yet met with South Dakota troops in Afghanistan, but he planned to Thursday. I have not yet found photos of those Thursday visits to compare... but I'm willing to bet that when those photos turn up, with the heightened security concerns in Afghanistan, we'll see Daugaard in fatigues outdoors there as well.

I'm not sure I see a major foul here. Mr. Jones's point on security may hold some water... although as I check the record, I find Commander-in-Chief Obama visited Iraq in more dangerous April 2009 wearing his regular suit. When the President visited Bagram Air Base in December 2010, he wore a leather bomber jacket.

Military readers, I welcome your perspective: what is protocol for elected officials, particularly commanders-in-chief, wearing military garb in country?


  1. Mark 2012.04.21

    I suppose the Jones' security explanation is plausible, but it's also a good photo op. I'm sure the troops appreciate the visit and the electorate also likes a man in uniform.

  2. David Newquist 2012.04.21

    As with everything in the military, there is a written protocol regarding the wearing of uniforms or any part of them. The main regulation is that the wearing of military uniforms by civilians is forbidden, with this exception: "While attending a course of military instruction conducted by the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, a civilian may wear the uniform prescribed by that armed force if the wear of such uniform is specifically authorized under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of the military department concerned."

    Tours of military bases and information-gathering groups are being given military instruction. Aside from the PR advantages to letting politicians and celebrities get dressed up in soldier suits, there is a practical side to it. As commander-in-chief of the SD Guard, Gov. Daugaard is in the military chain of command and is to be shown military courtesies and privileges of rank. In wearing a uniform or other badge of service, those being given instruction are also subject to the orders of the command in charge, which is mostly for safety reasons. If the command asks you to do something, like get your ass in a trench, it is a military order which must be followed.

    In years past, civilian correspondents wore uniforms to indicate that that their presence on the line of battle also made them subject to the command so that they wouldn't do dumb things to endanger the operation, like set off flash bulbs at night at a listening post.

    Often, civilian delegations such as the one Daugaard was in are assigned military escorts. The escorts' duty is to provide the PR amenities but also to advise the delegation of the military behavior it is expected to conform to. (Like not smoking near the missile booster.) And as long as they are wearing the uniform, they WILL conform.

  3. Michael Black 2012.04.21

    Cory, surely you can find something better to complain about then our governor in a military jacket.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.21

    A reader offered the initial complaint, Michael. I highlighted that complaint, a reasonable response from another reader, and photographic evidence to elicit knowledge and comment from other readers. I got exactly such valuable information from Dr. Newquist. Thank you, David!

    By the way, here's Army Regulation 670–1, "Wear and Appearance of U.S. Army Uniforms and Insignia." Happy reading!

  5. Les 2012.04.21

    Am I wrong in stating the National Guard has been nationalized for quite some time to expand our limited defense manpower.

    If so how is any Governor commander in chief, for those of you who might know?

  6. Garyd 2012.04.21

    I agree with Michael on this one. There are many bigger issues than this.

  7. larry kurtz 2012.04.21

    In about 1970 or so, my very furious retired Air Force Republican father wrote the Argus Leader citing George McGovern with the same offense. The letters that followed afterwards accused Dad of nitpicking.

    He received numerous letters of encouragement at home.

    Thank you, Prof. Newquist, for the clarification.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.21

    Les, that's a very interesting question. Remind me to run for governor so I can order all of our National Guard troops home and see what happens.

  9. John Hess 2012.04.21

    It was offered by DOD, but was it paid for by DOD? Either way it's us. I'm not sure I'm appreciating the point of it. Can he bring em home?

  10. Rorschach 2012.04.21

    He's wearing a jacket, not a full uniform. Doesn't offend me.

    What I always found more offensive was when Governor Rounds always asked veterans to stand and be recognized every time he talked to any group. Then he stood there himself - instead of sitting down like he should have since he is not a veteran. Rounds certainly did like to bask in false glory and give the false impression he was a veteran. Governor Rounds, Mr. Cordt, was the real liar who needed to be singled out as such.

  11. Mark 2012.04.21

    Governor Heidelberger, I think once your troops are federalized you can request to have them come home, but when the deployment orders are cut, they report to their new Commander in Chief. Here's hoping they're all back before your swearing-in ceremony.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.22

    Dang—if we have a major local emergency, I'll just have to implement a state draft and require my blog commenters to report for duty at the sandbag line.

  13. John 2012.04.22

    Marks, right. This is a dust-up about nuthin other than dress up. Mr. Daugaard is commander in chief of nuthin in Kuwait, Iraq, or Afghanistan. It's common for a service to offer a jacket, shirt, etc., to a visiting dignitary as part of recruiting and marketing gimmick as they try to out-promote each other. If Mr. Daugaard wants to be be a sandwich board let him. He undoubtedly has an airforce fighter pilot's jacket and a bomber's jacket in his closet, and the Navy is probably cutting him dress whites to attend the SD submarine's commissioning. Oh, and it has nuthin to do with "security" or "safety". The security detail, the radios, the crowds, etc., long ago communicated "dignitary here" - it's not like he's on patrol, taking point, or even peering across a DMZ. No one put a uniform on the Honorable Madelene Albright when we flew her and here 8 helicopter entourage around Bosnia and Serbia for 3 days.

  14. Joe 2012.04.22

    I have many family members who have served in different branches, from National Guard's, Navy, AF, Army, etc.

    And the one thing that they are big on is people wearing the uniform for a photo opp, or people who are not/have not been in wearing the uniform.

    For the interview he could have taken it off, it doesn't look like he was out in the open during it.

  15. Anne 2012.04.22

    Having been raised in a military family, I recall how strict the military observed the regulations on who and when people could wear the uniform. From some of the comments above, it sounds like many commands are in methodical violation of the regulations. Maybe that's why the military now provides so many occasions for apologies and excuses about its behavior.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.22

    John makes an interesting point, that the Army is as interested in advertising itself by slapping its colors on dignitaries as dignitaries might be in "butching up" in soldier duds. But given David's explanation at the top, it seems any possible "sandwich-boarding" may take a back seat to more legitimate justifications.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.22

    Ah! But consider this opposing view from a retired USAF colonel who says the civilian Commander-in-Chief should never wear a military uniform:

    Though the president commands our military, he is not, strictly speaking, a member of it. Rather, as our highest ranking public servant, he stands above it, exercising the authority granted to him by the Constitution to command the military in the people's name.

    Whenever the president addresses our troops, he should, indeed he must, appear in civilian clothing, because that's precisely what he is: a civilian, a very special one, to be sure, but that's what he is -- and what he always must be [William Astore, "Military Clothing for Presidents? No, Sir!" Huffington Post, 2010.03.29].

  18. Jay BK Slater 2012.04.23

    Pure and simple it is security. Security for dignitary and service members. This is also the reason service members were not allowed any civilian clothing in a combat zone. Imagine yourself in Camp Taji, IZ at night and 7 insurgents drive a vehicle through your base wall and attack. Anyone in civilian or para military clothing is fair game for friendly forces. You certainly do not want to be the one to run out of your tent wearing jeans and a button down shirt. As a US Forces member you also do not want to be the one that in the "haze of war" shoots a fellow service member thinking they are the bad guy in the dark. Thus, civies in Kuwait and DCU in Afghanistan for security and reduce confusion for all.

    National Guard service members all swear an oath to the State and the Nation making both the President and Governor their Commander In Chief. The National Guard receives funding for equipment and training from DoD. All the equipment you see during floods, tornadoes, forest fires and blizzards belong to the US Army and are "loaned" to the SDNG.

    The Governors receive notification or submit request of which of their units are to be federally activated for war or state emergencies. Once federally activated the unit personnel are transferred to control of US Army for command and control to use as they determine. If the Governor does not sign activation then some other state must pick up the effort and activate one of their units for the mission. If the Governor does not sign activation it can impact future manning and equipment funding which further impacts SD economy through community monies for facilities and part time jobs and education opportunities.

    Under no circumstances that I can think of should non-military government or elected officials wear or present a military appearance outside of a combat zone.

    Hope this clears up some of the questions. It is pretty much common sense and the uniform is a privilege and honor not to be abused.


  19. Jay BK Slater 2012.04.23

    Gotta love army acronyms. BDU = Battle Dress Uniform, ACU = Army Combat Uniform, DBDU = Desert Battle Dress Uniform...commonly incorrectly called DCU or "Digies" or Digital Combat Uniform(as I used it above). Proper term to cover all patterns is ACU. ASU = Army Service Uniform and is the "fancy" one you see at most public events. For more on common sense wear of army uniform here is a current link.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.23

    If we're worried about distinguishing friendly civilians during a firefight, maybe the brass could hand out Abe Lincoln top hats....

  21. Jay BK Slater 2012.04.23

    LOL...saw URL and thought of LK comment last week regarding where from the south I was. There is something definitely stated about the individual who as Commander in Chief stands on a battlefield in plain view, even in modern warfare. Everyone in uniform knows their US Commander In Chief or they should be checked for TBI. Unfortunately, I believe that Governor Daugaard would not have been allowed to see "his" Soldiers without following proscribed (or is it prescribed?) protocol as directed by US DoD security detail. You hit the nail on the head why guerrilla and non-conventional tactics are so successful in modern warfare when you wrote, "worried about distinguishing friendly civilians". I do not believe anyone could find a declared set uniform being worn by the enemy that has killed or injured a US/SD Soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan. Those Soldiers' toughest mission is trying to identify the enemy who is trying to kill them.

  22. LK 2012.04.23

    Mr. Slater,

    larry kurz and I are two different people. Just want to make sure that you attribute statements to the right person

  23. LK 2012.04.23


    It strikes me the fact that some confuse our respective comment is evidence that the education system has failed. You write with far more panache than I do. Surely an adequately educated person should notice that fact.

  24. Bill Fleming 2012.04.23

    LOL... is that what you call it? "Panache?" Excellent! Panache! ...and here I was thinking it was about half bullshit! (I kid because I love, IP.)

  25. larry kurtz 2012.04.23

    this is funny because Larry Kralj and ip tag team to smack down the earth haters that dare comment on the Montana lefty blogs, too.

  26. Bill Fleming 2012.04.23

    Backn topic, supposedly wearing a uniform sends a message. It would help if our enemies wore them too. These days they don't seem to. It's become a confusing meme, I think.

  27. Jay BK Slater 2012.04.23

    My apologies to LK as it was Larry Kurtz I reference regarding comment and URL ...and so my education continues. Diplomacy does not fail, it is only given up, simply ask any US Secretary of State in the past 16 years regarding those challenges. I digress, diplomacy and military are separate enterprises with common goals.

    Bill Fleming is correct, wearing a uniform does send a message. It is all about delivery and perception. My biased opinion simply provided me with a response of "good job on visiting troops" same as whenever I see an elected or appointed official doing their duty. Troops like it when their elected officials come see the hole they live in and care enough to have courage to go.

    I think Cory's question is concerning the political ramifications of wearing a field jacket or uniform to promote an agenda. I have not seen nor heard that in the instance cited here. If the interview would have contained language regarding inappropriate comments I would have taken offense.

    First define "military garb" then define "in country" and from there infer appropriate protocol. Every governor should visit their national guard army and air force personnel in a combat zone, shame on them if they do not. Their attire will be dictated by DoD or should be addressed by common sense self-preservation protocol. DoD is not going to tell The Commander In Chief what to wear, that is more likely a recommendation of the Secret Service responsible for his security. Ultimately, it is the President of the United States choice in the matter and the higher security risks posed with civilian attire is either foolish or commendable. Another factor is the amount of security provided in the venue. A governor has much less say in the matter being lower in the food chain of commander-in-chiefs.

    Bottom line is that I think it is great when the President visits the troops in the combat zone. I also think it is great when the Governor visits the troops in the combat zone. I believe wearing military garb in country entirely depends on security. I believe using such events to promote or address a non-relevant political purpose is wrong. I also consider that a reflection of the individual.

    I hope you wont ever see me wearing my uniform in an inappropriate manner and wish that you would address such a concern "on the spot" with me should the occasion arise.

    Breaking down the little pieces while keeping focus on the big picture.

    So let me pose a question. If I am running for election what is the protocol for using a picture of me in uniform as evidence or to validate my qualifications to address veterans issues or a military segment of constituency? One could argue that my uniform is a curriculum vitae of 24 years of education.

    This is a heavily regulated DoD topic, who is currently cracking down on military presence in political process this election year. There have been recently, and will continue to be more, incidents of military breaking protocol. Furthermore, it is not a heavily regulated campaign topic and shame on the politicians that use enlisted members or officers of the military to publicly promote themselves or an agenda at the expense of the service member's violation of DoD protocol. I am cognizant of this and use a lot of caution when I am around my friends in uniform(ie coat zipped to cover campaign shirt).

    I am loquacious but my intent is three-fold, first to respond to Cory's question, then wear out passionate readers and finally for readers think about what I am saying as your tirelessly read to this sentence.

  28. Bill Fleming 2012.04.23

    Jay, back in my youth a lot of us war protesters wore military-like uniforms to "send a message." These days, civilians wearing uniforms usually means the opposite of what we meant then. And then there were these guys:

  29. larry kurtz 2012.04.23

    About the time my father took on Sen. McGovern for his choice to don a flight suit in 1970, Dad gave me a field jacket to wear ostensibly in solidarity with those serving in SE Asia.

    Telling him that i intended to sew an american flag upside-down on the back of it resulted in week-long date with a pitchfork and a manure spreader.

  30. larry kurtz 2012.04.23

    lemme guess: yer about 5'7"...right, jay?

  31. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.04.23

    Interesting route to the question, Jay. As Les notes above, Daugaard is not in theater as any sort of Commander in Chief. He probably can't give a SDNG soldier any actionable order overseas. He can't come home and make policy directing the mission.

    You, David, and Troy offer other justifications for asking the Governor and any other visiting civilian to don military garb. I'm not too bent out of shape by those justifications. My out-of-shapedness will come, as your question suggests, if the images of Daugaard in uniform turn into Daugaard 2014 posters. The justifications above apply only to the moment when wearing the uniform serves a military purpose. Seeing him in that uniform in posters outside that moment will make me uneasy. Anyone else?

    However, Jay, you get me wondering about photos of a candidate from his previous military service. Stace Nelson posts such pictures, and indeed, such pictures serve as a sort of pictoral resume. If you've been a soldier, and your campaign materials point out that you were a soldier, well, that's just a fact. You can take touting that portion of your resume too far (soldiers aren't inherently more patriotic or qualified to make policy than any other group of citizens), but I don't think we ban displaying those old photos.

  32. D. Bice 2012.05.02

    The top picture shows Governor Daugaard wearing an Army Combat Uniform (ACU) field jacket with a SD Guard tape over the left breast pocket. According to Army Regulation 670-1, as Commander-in-Chief of a State Defense Force (the South Dakota National Guard), the Governor is authorized to wear this particular uniform. Had he had a US Army tape over the left breast pocket instead of SD Guard, it would not have been authorized, as only members of the Active Duty Army, Army Reserve and/or Army National Guard are authorized to wear a US Army tape over the left breast pocket.

    Army Regulation 670-1
    Uniforms and Insignia
    Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia

    Part 5 Chapter 30–8. Wear of a Uniform Similar to the Army Uniform

    Section C. State defense forces (SDF) may adopt the Army service and BDU uniforms, provided all service uniform buttons, cap devices, and other insignia differ significantly from that prescribed for wear by members of the U.S. Army. State insignia will not include “United States,” “U.S.,” “U.S. Army,” or the Great Seal of the United States. Personnel of the SDF may wear a State-designed SDF distinguishing badge or insignia centered on the left pocket flap. The red nametape or nameplate will include the full title of the SDF (for example, “Texas State Guard”). The utility uniforms will contain a State SDF tape in lieu of “U.S. Army” over the left breast pocket. States wishing to adopt the Army service and utility uniforms will register with the Chief, National Guard Bureau.

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