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AF releases Inspector General inquiry on Travis Retirement Ceremony

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force Inspector General completed the inquiry into the circumstances of the April 2016 Retirement Ceremony at Travis Air Force Base, California.

After reviewing the evidence, the Inspector General concluded that Mr. Oscar Rodriguez was not removed from the ceremony because he intended to use a script with religious content. Evidence indicated that Mr. Rodriguez was removed by members of the squadron because he attempted to participate in the ceremony even though his participation had been disapproved by the hosting squadron commander.

The evidence established that the honoree had informed Mr. Rodriguez prior to the ceremony that the squadron commander had prohibited him from participating in the ceremony but that Mr. Rodriguez could attend the ceremony as a guest.

Witness testimony also highlighted that the squadron commander neither ordered the removal of Mr. Rodriguez during the ceremony nor established a pre-determined plan to remove him if he did participate in the ceremony. The investigation found that the commander and members of the unit had no reason to expect that Mr. Rodriguez would violate the directions they had been assured had been discussed with him by the honoree. However, when it became clear that Mr. Rodriguez intended to act inconsistent with the commander’s restrictions, he was removed by several squadron NCOs. The inquiry found no evidence that the NCOs were motivated to impair Mr. Rodriguez’s constitutional rights of freedom of speech or religion.

As a result of this inquiry and Mr. Rodriquez’ allegations, the Air Force also reviewed existing policy and determined that Air Force Instruction 34-1201, “Protocol” was too restrictive regarding flag folding scripts at retirement ceremonies. Therefore, the language in the AFI related to flag folding at retirement ceremonies has been rescinded.

If attendance at a retirement ceremony is voluntary, the individual being honored may choose the elements of his/her retirement ceremony. A retirement ceremony can reflect the faith of the retiree and will often include a chaplain to provide an invocation and benediction. In the ceremony in question, the chaplain’s invocation was specifically tailored to include personal religious content at the retiree’s request. The Air Force places the highest value on the rights of its personnel in matters of religion and facilitates the free exercise of religion by its members. Airmen are sworn to protect the rights and liberties as Americans, including the right of all Airmen to practice their religious faith or to practice no faith at all.

A redacted copy of the report of inquiry can be found in the FOIA reading room by clicking here.

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