This month, First Army will join the rest of the Department of Defense in conducting a Stand Down to address the impacts of extremism in the ranks.  This is an important issue to address.

Between 2017 and 2019, the Army Threat Integration Center investigated 22 reports of potential extremist activities or affiliations by military members.  Twenty of those involved troops demonstrating support for white supremacist or neo-Nazi ideology or associating with explicitly white supremacist or neo-Nazi organizations.

Here is just one horrifying example:

In September 2019, as a result of an FBI investigation, an Army junior enlisted Soldier was arrested and charged with one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction.  During the investigation, it was discovered that the Soldier had “disseminated guidance on how to construct improvised explosive devices” and had spoken about his desire to travel to Ukraine to fight with a paramilitary group with neo-Nazi sympathies.

Cases like this tear at the fabric of our force’s good order and discipline.  But let me be clear – it’s far more than that.  Such actions break the trust we have with the American people to represent them, to live up to higher standards, to safeguard the highest ideals of our nation. Even more, they make a mockery of the belief – which has guided my whole career – that through our common service we are all truly brothers and sisters in arms.

As we at First Army ready ourselves for the upcoming stand down activities, I want to go on record with a very clear message:  Actively espousing ideologies that encourage discrimination, hate, and harassment against others will not be tolerated within First Army. I expect the core principles of dignity and mutual respect to guide the actions of the personnel in our organization at all times.

I believe the vast majority of men and women who serve in uniform do so with honor, integrity, and high character and do not espouse these sorts of extremist beliefs. However, it has become increasingly clear that we must be ever vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat such ideology within our ranks and organizations.

I look forward to talking with you all further on this topic later this month. You will be receiving more information on First Army’s stand down, along with reading materials and specific topics to be addressed.

Like so many of you, I watched the angry mob descend on the heart of our government – the U.S. Capitol – on January 6.  I thought to myself: these are not the Americans I know, these are not the ones I have been proud to serve with as Soldiers or to have fought alongside in the most harrowing of conditions.

But news reports later revealed I was wrong: some of those storming the Capitol were indeed former and even current military members.

This cannot stand. These bad actors must be rooted out. All of us who wear the Army uniform have sworn an oath to our nation, and as such, we must all remember America’s most indispensable founding ideal: We are all created equal.