FORT KNOX, Ky.– There is no place for violent extremism in the U.S. Army. That was the message that soldiers and civilian employees in the 1st Theater Sustainment Command received when they participated in an extremism stand down here March 10.
1st TSC Commanding General Maj. Gen. John Sullivan, led the event through Microsoft Teams to ensure 100 percent participation of personnel within the headquarters, while maintaining COVID mitigation measures.
The White House defines violent extremism as “individuals who support or commit ideological-motivated violence to further political goals.”
In an April 2017 report, the Government Accountability Office defined violent extremism “as ideologically, religious, or politically-motivated acts of violence—[which] has been perpetrated in the United States by white supremacists, anti-government groups, and radical Islamist entities, among others.”
The U.S Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III directed the stand down to address extremism in the ranks of all U.S. military services. To set the tone for the training, Sullivan opened by playing Austin’s extremism video introduction where he stressed the stand down’s importance. His directive contained three specific requirements.
The first requirement addressed the importance of the oath of office, the second addressed impermissible behaviors, and the third addressed procedures for reporting suspected or actual extremist behaviors. This directive is the first initiative in a deliberate campaign to identify and eliminate harmful behavior in the ranks and the workforce.
Following the video, Sullivan emphasized the importance of the oath of office. He reminded First Team members that service members and federal workers do not swear allegiance to a supervisor, an agency, a political appointee, or even to the president. The oath is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that the employee or service member will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
Sullivan said that by providing this training, we are “seeking to ensure that, to the extent that we have it within our ranks, that we are identifying it, reporting it, and addressing it immediately.”
“If all else fails, revert to the oath of office, and revert to our Army values, and that should put you on a pretty good azimuth,” Sullivan added.
Throughout the training, Sullivan continually stressed that violent extremism is not in keeping with Army values and the oath we take to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Soldiers can report signs of extremism to their supervisors, the staff judge advocate, equal opportunity office, inspector general or law enforcement. Sullivan encouraged soldiers to use leadership to ask questions to refer to Army regulations.
Army Regulation 600-20 provides definitions and leader actions, and indicators of potential extremism can be found in AR 381-12.
“If something you see doesn’t look right, doesn’t sound right, is it in the extremism category - the worst thing you can do is not say anything,” Sullivan said. If there is an indicator of extremism, “have the moral courage to act on it,” he added.
He also reminded participants of the old adage, “If you see something; say something.”
Sullivan concluded the stand down by charging leaders to continue the conversation, to use the staff judge advocate and equal opportunity advisor staff to help inform those follow-on conversations, and continue to have vigilance on this topic.
“This is really a wake-up call and a spur to begin more dialogue on this,” he said. “And so, I welcome that. I encourage that throughout our Command. Thank you for serving. Ninety eight percent of those in uniform are serving for all the right reasons, doing so in accordance with our Army Values and supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States, and that includes all of you. So, thank you very much for all you’re doing each and every day to make our First Team great.”