USAG HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Following the Secretary of Defense's guidance, the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade conducted a mandatory anti-extremism stand down for the whole command on Mar. 23.
The stand-down focus was to reinforce the message that the U.S. Army will not tolerate extremism, racism, sexual harassment/assault, or other harmful behaviors and activities within the organization.
The brigade started the anti-extremism stand down with a commander’s conference to discuss extremism within the ranks with the brigade’s top leadership on both the officer and enlisted side.
“We have to make sure that everyone in the Red Dragon Brigade knows that there is no room for extremism in our formation,” said Col. Paul Oh, commander, 501st MI Brigade.
The group of leaders had an open forum to discuss their experiences with racism and extremism within the ranks, and in one case chaptering out a Soldier for his openly expressed white supremacist ideology.
The commander's conference also discussed a life experience-driven "walk a mile in my shoes" discussion with two African-American men from the brigade, incorporating the views of a commissioned officer and a noncommissioned officer. Each Soldier shared their own unique but not dissimilar experiences from the perspective of racism within the ranks and in American society while serving their country.
During his narrative, Capt. Paris Larkin, commander, Headquarters Support Company, 3rd MI Battalion, related his experience serving as the intelligence officer for an aviation task force.
Larkin explained that while briefing the taskforce's leadership, he often felt that his voice wasn't heard, or that what he briefed was belittled. He said many times he gave the daily battlefield intelligence brief script that he had prepared to his white assistant intelligence officer, so that those in the task force’s leadership would accept the information without questioning its veracity.
He continued that the question often arises, "When will there be fair and equitable treatment for our Soldiers?"
Sgt. 1st Class Dameon Crockett, supply noncommissioned officer in charge, 719th MI Battalion, relayed a traumatic experience he endured early in his career, made worse by a lack of caring from the leadership of his unit.
"I was a young sergeant at Fort Riley, Kansas, where I was married, and my wife had a stroke," said Crockett. "We were in the hospital for months at a time. It was predominantly a white command, and literally, I had nobody from the command visit my wife and me at the hospital. Mind you that she almost died in front of me."
At the same command, Crockett said he was called the "N" word and a monkey by an infantryman while working as a supply sergeant in the unit's supply storage area. He said that coming from New Orleans, he didn't have a lot growing up but saw the Army as a way to move forward in his life. Sadly this is endemic of the experience of many of the faces of color serving in the ranks of our country's military forces.
During the anti-extremism virtual town, Oh let everyone in the command know that the 501st MI Brigade is fully committed to upholding the Department of Defense policy that prohibits advocating or participating in organizations supporting supremacy, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes. He also reinforced his message that there is no place for anyone with racist or extremist beliefs in his formation.
Oh told the brigade that if they see any type of extremism within the command to root it out, and if they didn't see it now, to keep it from taking root.
"The Army is a profession and part of what makes it a profession is the idea that it is self-policing," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Martino. "The entire team depends on you to stop the small issues before they develop into large ones. The belief in extremist ideology or participation in its activity allows our adversaries to exploit seams which affect recruitment and the force's ability to showcase our ability to be non-bias in our efforts to protect our nation's citizens."
The 501st Military Intelligence Brigade provides indications and early warning of actions by opposing forces who could threaten the tense, but stable, peace in the Republic of Korea. In the event of hostilities, the brigade’s mission shifts to providing combined, multi-discipline intelligence and force protection support to the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, the CFC Ground Component Command and their subordinate units.