USAF warns Airmen not to participate in “22 pushup” challenge

US Air Force Personnel perform push-ups. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester /Released)

The US Air Force is issuing a warning to airmen taking part in publicly doing 22 pushups on social media to raise awareness on veteran suicides, claiming the act runs into the possibility of becoming a policy violation.

The Air Force contends that doing the event in uniform or on duty -regardless of good intentions- could violate the DoD’s policy against endorsements and fundraising.

“While [airmen] are allowed to participate in activities to honor fallen airmen or bring awareness to issues like suicide, if these activities are associated with any type of nonprofit, non-federal entity, or fundraising or membership campaign, it cannot be done in an official capacity,” according to a Sept. 30 Air Force release, which danced around naming any challenges or events in particular.

The Air Force went on to say that doing such fundraising or awareness events in uniform or on duty is prohibited, although lunch hours outside of uniform would be okay.

The event comes from the nonprofit group called 22kill, pushing the hashtags #22Pushups and #22Kill to raise awareness and money to combat veteran suicides and other related issues.

The number “22” refers to a commonly cited -albeit erroneous- statistic that 22 veterans kill themselves per day, although recent studies from the VA place the actual number closer to 20 per day.

22Kill executive director and wounded Marine veteran Jacob Schick found himself vexed with the USAF’s recent decree.

“I think it’s stupid,” Schick said. “When you have an entire brigade in the UK doing the same thing, and the Air Force says you can’t do it on government time even though it’s for the cause of veterans, I’m not sure how that makes any sense whatsoever.”

Several Air Force units from Colorado to the United Kingdom have taken photos of themselves participating in the challenge, as well as other branches of the armed forces taking part in the event.

The US Army says that while it disallows soldiers from taking part in the challenge while in uniform or on duty, it has not issued a public release on the matter.

The Marine Corps is currently reviewing policy to see if the challenge is in violation.

In an email responding to an inquiry by KHOU, Navy spokesman Ensign Marc Rockwellpate said that “The Navy is not specifically discouraging or forbidding sailors from participating in the 22 Pushup Challenge. However, all DoD employees must abide by the Joint Ethics Regulation, which is clear concerning such activities. Endorsement of a non-federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise may be neither stated nor implied by DoD or DoD employees in their official capacities.”

Rockwellplate went on to say that sailors interested in doing the challenge should consult their legal offices to see if doing so is appropriate.

Still, Schick said the USAF should consider the cause before discouraging airmen from something so harmless.

“You would think the Air Force would condone such a cause, given what it represents,” he said. “This is an epidemic plaguing the warrior community. Let’s fight it together, because that’s how you win things.”

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