When you start your business, OR if you already own a business, you need to have a good conversation with your JAG. Why? First off, they can advise you on the legality of what you are trying to do, and ohh, its also the LAW! That’s right, under the UCMJ you have to disclose any compensation/employment from an off base source, which means that if you own a business, you gotta tell.
You should start now, here’s why. This last week and a half were very difficult for Active Duty Millionaire. A “person” on my base did/does not like what I am doing. Thus called the JAG who reviewed my website, my activities and business dealings. I had already been to the JAG and had my supervisor as well as my senior O-6 sign off on my AF FORM 3902 (off base employment form in the Air Force). From the start, I was trying to be as open and “compliant” as I could. Fact of the matter is this, no service is going to encourage its members to start businesses, I get it. I can think of reasons why they should, but there are plenty of reasons to the contrary as well. So, when a very sensational complaint came through, my supervisor asked me to take my website down while it could undergo further legal review.
We took it down for a week, and after a week, nothing illegal, or otherwise unethical was found. What were the complaints? Here’s where it get’s fun. 1) The name: Active Duty Millionaire gives a bad perception or something of the sort. I really don’t understand this complaint. However, the base level JAG office and the numbered Air Force JAG said there is nothing wrong with the name “Active Duty Millionaire” nor implying that one on active duty has a net worth in excess of one million dollars, phewwwww! Thank goodness, to think the service would kick a guy out because he is successful, is well, you decide. 2) I had a picture of me in my full pressure suit on my Ebook. The complaint was that this full pressure suit was a uniform, and people in uniform cannot use their rank and title to support something that economically benefits them. Got it. However, the full pressure suit aka orange U-2 pilot space suit is not a uniform, thus from the JAG, it was at best a “grey area”. What is a “grey area”? Well, the JAG will never tell you: “this is OK for your business”, they can’t. They do military law, and its not their job to advise you on what you CAN do. What they can do is advise you what you can’t or shouldn’t do. AND just because the JAG says it “looks OK” doesn’t mean that a commander will not have a problem with it, which is where it gets really fun. If a commander doesn’t like what you are doing, he/she can order you to stop, its in their purview to do so, however, you and the JAG may have a case if the order is illegal or not. You still have rights, but not the same as your civilian counterparts. What’s the point? Get as far out of the grey area as you can, so if your commander calls you to the mat, you have a case. What did I do? I took that photograph off, I chose a different battle, pretty sure I could win that one, but its not the one I want to fight. Remember, if I get called to the mat, website comes down, while people look into my stuff on their schedules and I have to wait. I kept www.activedutymillionaire.com though, again, if I get called out, I have the backing to take that one on. 3) The last complaint was petty, but funny none the less. When I did my “business bio” under the about me tab on my website I wrote “Neal is a U-2 Pilot stationed at Beale AFB, CA. He is the uber proud father of FIVE kids and married to a smoking hot wife!” Its my understanding that the phrase: “smoking hot wife” was either offensive, or had some perception issues, I’m not sure. Either way, this was a discussion I had with the JAG and my supervisor (neither of whom were at liberty to say who complained, but only that there was a complaint). First, if you read the statement, I hope that you see, feel and understand the levity. If not that’s OK too, but after the meeting we agreed that its not illegal to have a smoking hot wife (thank goodness, didn’t want to divorce her!), its OK to say you have a smoking hot wife (even better, because I’d be lying if I said she were simply “pretty”) finally it might even be encouraged to feel this way about ones spouse. It was funny chatting with the JAG and my supervisor about this, but, the conversation was real, it happened, and that’s why you need all the legal advice you can get. If someone can levy a complaint against you, they can shut you down, and facts may or may not matter. For some people, just having a complaint against you can and will have a negative impact on your career and your ability to do your job. You need to think about this and decide if it is worth it? My supervisor has informed me of people he knows who have gone through these battles, even though they have done nothing wrong, it still impacted them in a personal way.
So get legal advice, its free, and they genuinely want to help. Once you get the advice, stop in again, speak to a different JAG, and see what they have to say. Get all the perspectives you can get, you will be glad you did if you ever get called to the mat! Now go build something BIGGER!!!