By: Sgt. 1st Class Kelvin Ringold, 13th ESC Public Affairs
FORT HOOD (Now designated Fort Cavazos), Texas- Success in the Army is dependent on building disciplined, cohesive teams who trust, respect and care for one another. In order to maintain that solidarity, discrimination, hate and harassment must be combated at every opportunity.
Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, held stand-down training to address extremism March 30.
On Feb. 5, the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, signed a memorandum implementing a strategy to address extremism, and the stand-down is the first initiative in a deliberate campaign to identify and eliminate extremist behavior in the workforce.
“Extremism and domestic terrorism are a persistent threat,” said Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Garcia Jr., the 13th ESC Equal Opportunity Leader. “Whether it’s racially motivated, anti-government or any single issue, we must continue to support and enforce the Department of Defense standards.”
HHC, 13th ESC’s Commander, Capt. Vidal Freeman, ensured Soldiers understood there was no misinterpretation of the training’s intent.
“Ideology that encourages discrimination, hate and harassment against others will not be tolerated,” Freeman said. “I expect the core principles of dignity and mutual respect to guide the actions of personnel in this unit at all times.”
Every year, approximately 130,000 diverse Soldiers from different cultures join the Army, and developing their character and instilling the Army Values is a non-stop mission.
“Being in the Army is an honor and privilege,” Freeman said. “You serve in one of the most respected institutions in America. You are held to a higher standard and must set the right example.”
The Army has always been a values-based organization. When Soldiers raise their right hands and swear or affirm their commitment to the Army and nation, the expectations set for them change.
“The oath lists the values that I expect myself and my peers to live up to,” said Maj. Casey Colbeth, 13th ESC.
The Army values have not changed and harmful behaviors and activities such as extremism have no place in Army formations.
“We all raise our right hand in defense of the nation and the rights granted through the constitution,” explained 1st Lt. Drake Nixon, Executive Officer, HHC, 13th ESC. “But that doesn’t grant you free speech at the cost of others and without repercussions.”
Over the last year specifically, many real-world situations occuring through the news or on social media have landed service members and DOD employees intentionally, or inadvertently, in situations that are considered extremist or go against the Army Values or DOD policies.
“The vast majority of men and women perform their duties with integrity and do not support extremism,” Freeman said. “However, recent events have shown we must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat such ideologies within our organizations.”
The Army remains committed to upholding the DOD policy that prohibits actively advocating, or participating in organizations that advocate, supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology or causes, and asks Soldiers to remain vigilant.
“People can slip through the cracks,” Dixon said. “That’s why we need service members and others to be looking out for extremist behavior in one another.”
At the end of the day, it’s up to individuals to ensure they are upholding the standards to which service members and DOD employees are held.
“Make sure we watch what we say, what we do, what we like or retweet on social media and the places we go,” Freeman said. “If we do that, we should be safe from possible repercussions from interpreted, or misinterpreted, actions.”