The Connecticut National Guard recently began holding unit-level stand downs in order to identify and address corrosive behaviors in the military and to discuss what is and isn’t acceptable behaviors for Soldiers.
The call for these Department of Defense-wide stand downs came from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin following reports that some of the participants in the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 may have served, or were currently serving, in some capacity for the U.S. military.
“There’s no room for corrosives in our organization,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, adjutant general for the Connecticut National Guard. “Sexual assault, sexual harassment, racism, sexism, none of that is allowed in our formations.”
No active members of the Connecticut National Guard were participants in the riots and the stand downs are not directed at any specific demographic within the military, but do allow Guardsmen the opportunity to have an open conversation about how to identify potentially corrosive behavior.
“Corrosives ruin a unit,” said Evon. “They impact readiness. They impact the trust and confidence that the American people have in us. It will impact and erode mission accomplishment and there’s no place for it.”
Although the stand downs are meant to approach the topic of extremism, Connecticut National Guard leadership decided to take it a step further to discuss a wide range of unacceptable behavior that has, historically, plagued the military and to reiterate that the diversity our service members bring to the organization needs to be seen as an asset and not something to divide us.
“We have to be honest with each other,” said Evon. “Our strength and our uniqueness as a Guard is because of the diversity of our thought, the diversity of our backgrounds. We come from different beliefs, different religions, different civilian occupations, and that’s what puts on par with any unit who does this 365 days a year on active duty.”
Over the past year, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, storm response, civil disturbance, and, of course, the local and national response to the Capitol riots, the National Guard has been in the public eye more than normal. Although the perception of the National Guard through all these trials has remained mostly positive, the actions of just one ill-intended service member could derail the positive impact the organization has had on the state and community.
At the end of the day, Guard leadership understands the organization isn’t perfect – no organization is – but hopes that these stand downs will help normalize open discussion about toxic behavior and how to address it to make sure it stops.
“The bottom line is: there’s no place for it in our formations,” said Evon, “and if you see it, you need to intervene.”
Soldiers and Airmen who believe they’ve witnessed corrosive behavior within their unit are encouraged to tell their first-line leaders or unit leadership, immediately.