A March 5 stand-down at U.S. Army Forces Command Headquarters on Fort Bragg, N.C., focused on discussing the issue of extremism and racism in the military force as part of a Department of Defense-wide initiative announced in February by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Maj. Gen. Eugene J. LeBoeuf, the FORSCOM Chief of Staff, led the March FORSCOM monthly Foundational Training Day discussion on preventing racism and extremist activities. More than 700 Soldiers and Army civilian employees attended the training virtually using online-conferencing software.
“It was Feb. 5 that the Secretary of Defense directed unit commanders and supervisors at all levels to conduct this stand-down within 60 days to address this issue of extremist ideology that may exist in our ranks,” Maj. Gen. LeBoeuf said. “I hope you’ve heard the Secretary of Defense’s video remarks, where he addressed extremist ideologies--particularly those that undermine the oath we each took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic--have no place within the Department of Defense.”
The Secretary of Defense released a message Feb. 16 addressing extremism in the military. It can be viewed at: https://www.defense.gov/Watch/Video/videoid/784150/dvpcc/false/#DVIDSVideoPlayer581
Army senior leaders affirm they are committed to confronting extremism within the Army, identifying the root of the problem, and understanding the issue's depth. The Army does not tolerate extremism and other “corrosive behaviors” in our ranks, Army leaders say.
“Actively espousing ideologies that encourage discrimination, hate and harassment against others will not be tolerated within Forces Command,” Maj. Gen. LeBoeuf told the FORSCOM audience last week. “I expect the core principles of dignity and mutual respect to guide the actions of the personnel in this organization at all times.”
Forces Command’s Foundational Training Days include protected times each month aimed at enabling Soldiers and Army civilian employees to have dedicated time to listen and learn from one another, and to understand issues affecting Soldiers’ lives on and off duty.
“Treating each other with dignity and respect is an essential part of the Army culture,” FORSCOM Commanding General Michael X. Garrett said about the monthly training events. “Leaders must start conversations with young officers and NCOs about race, for example,” he said, “letting them know it is okay to talk about it. Open dialogue is critical to helping our people understand and support each other. Our leaders at all levels will afford all individuals an environment free from harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
Gen. Garrett also addressed these issues during a recent “FORSCOM Frontline podcast,” discussing the importance of the Army “People First” initiatives. The podcast can be found at:
The March 5 stand-down at FORSCOM Headquarters had four discussion goals:
- To review the meaning of the Oath we each took on becoming a member of the United States Military or a Department of Defense civilian employee;
- To review impermissible behaviors – those actions prohibited under applicable law, or under DoD and Army policies.
- To review the responsibilities for reporting to within the chain of command when observing or learning of prohibited actions, or those that cause us concern as “signs” of potential future problems; and,
- To solicit feedback on what actions the Secretary of Defense should consider in combating this issue.
Army officials caution that violent extremism poses a critical threat to the United States, both in the homeland and to U.S. operations overseas. Acts of violent extremism undermine the rule of law and the protection of human and civil rights. The potential threat is not limited to any single political, religious, ethnic/cultural, or ideological background.
Regardless of its motivation, violent extremism can have devastating effects on both civilian and military communities and could, if left unchecked, impact Army readiness, Army officials warn in discussions and via Army policies.
Army Regulation 600-20, “Army Command Policy,” includes extremism prohibitions and service member responsibilities. It says participation in extremist organizations and activities is prohibited. It is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service. Commands and law enforcement will take appropriate action upon learning that a Soldier is participating in extremist organizations or activities.
That Army regulation’s paragraph 4-12a says Soldiers cannot participate in groups that advocate: racial/sex/ethnic hatred or intolerance; creating or engaging in illegal discrimination; use of force or violence to deprive individuals’ rights or achieve
political/religious/discriminatory goals; support for terrorist organizations or objectives; overthrow of the U.S. Government by force or violence or sedition.
Army Regulation 600-20 also lists specific prohibitions involving extremist activities:
- Participating in public demonstration or rally
- Attending meetings (with knowledge the meeting involves an extremist cause)
- Recruiting, training, encouraging others to join
- Creating, organizing or assuming a leadership role
- Distributing literature that advocates extremism
- Receiving financial assistance from a person or organization who advocates terrorism/sedition
Army Regulation 600-20 also includes cautions about social media and internet activity:
- Soldiers are responsible for social media/internet posts
- Same prohibitions apply to internet activity, including social media sites and blogs
- Soldiers are prohibited from participating in extremist organizations and activities online
The Army’s success depends on the competence, resilience, discipline and trust we build in our teams, Army leaders say. Discrimination, hate and harassment in the ranks corrode the Army’s ability to build these teams and break trust with the Army’s number one priority, its people. A modern, ready Army depends on leaders creating an environment that holds all personnel to high standards of conduct, where mutual respect permeates the culture, and where every Soldier is part of the team and can say with confidence, “This Is My Squad.”
Army leaders also remind Soldiers and civilian employees that Army values have not changed. We have always been a values-based organization, leaders say. Character matters inside our organization. The vast majority of Soldiers who serve in the military are doing so with honor, integrity, and character, upholding their oath to protect and defend the U.S. constitution and do not engage in extremist behaviors.
The Army-wide stand-down is to be completed by April 6 for active component commands and by June 6 for reserve component commands.