FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Sarah Palin brought her book-signing tour to North Carolina's Fort Bragg on Monday as thousands greeted the former Republican vice presidential candidate in a campaign-like gathering that tested military rules involving politicians.
The Department of Defense typically prohibits politicians from using installations as a platform, so Palin didn't give a speech and simply thanked soldiers individually. She was allowed to hold the event as a private citizen who was not campaigning, a Fort Bragg spokesman said.
Army officials initially feared the book signing might turn political and negative comments would be directed at President Barack Obama, so they barred media from attending. The Army later relented and allowed coverage, and many people who attended did voice their opposition to the commander in chief.
Palin's tour bus parked nearby, splashed with her photo, encouraged donations to her political action committee, while supporters made clear that she should run for president.
Palin's father, who greeted visitors as his daughter signed copies of the book, said in an interview that Obama's handling of the military was "scary."
"I see a decline in our might," Chuck Heath said. "People used to be afraid of us and respect us, (but) they're not afraid of us and don't respect us anymore."
Col. Billy Buckner, a spokesman for Fort Bragg, said the Army agreed to let Palin on post because she was no longer a politician.
"She fell into a little bit of a gray area," he said. "She's not a political figure per se, but she certainly carries a tremendous amount of interest and influence across the country."
The former Alaska governor began a nationwide tour last week to promote a new memoir, "Going Rogue." She also has a planned visit to Fort Hood, Texas, on Dec. 4 – just a month after 12 people were killed there in a shooting rampage.
Later in Birmingham, Ala., hundreds of fans packed the Colonial Brookwood Village Mall at Homewood and chanted Palin's name for her book signing. A crowd estimated by police at about 1,800 lined up beginning Saturday night for a chance to get one of the 1,000 wristbands needed to meet Palin.
Hundreds of Palin supporters also arrived early at Fort Bragg, and one woman spent nearly 24 hours in line. Officials estimated that some 4,000 turned out. More than 500 had to be turned away as the three-hour signing ended.
G.R. Quinn, 58, a veteran who spent 20 years in the military, wore an "Impeach Obama" shirt. He blasted the president for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, for the plan to hold a key Sept. 11 terrorism trial in New York and for Obama's handling of the military overseas.
"He's so wishy-washy about Afghanistan," Quinn said, adding he hopes more troops will be sent there.
While the supporters were primarily civilians, dozens of uniformed personnel also greeted Palin. They craned to snap photos and shook her hand as she left.
Chief Warrant Officer Two Jeff Thompson, 36, praised Palin for stopping by.
"She cares about the troops," Thompson said. The soldier, who has had two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, said he supported the GOP ticket in 2008 but he considers Obama his boss.
"I support his decisions," Thompson said.