U.S. Navy, DOD Tackle Extremism and Discrimination in the Ranks

File image courtesy USN

Published Feb 10, 2021 2:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Like all of the service branches, the U.S. Navy is conducting brief stand-downs to address the threat of extremist ideology and racism in the ranks. 

Though they represent only a tiny fraction of America's veterans, about one out of five of the defendants charged in connection with the January 6 assault on Congress was a former servicemember - prompting concerns in the Defense Department about extremist groups recruiting from among active-duty personnel and recently-separated veterans. 

Newly-confirmed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered all units to conduct a one-day stand down with their personnel within 60 days to discuss extremism and discrimination, leaving the format, content and timing up to the discretion of commanding officers. 

"Just in the past few weeks, there have been two separate incidents where symbols of hate and violence were anonymously left in living areas aboard ships in our Fleet. The chain of command took both of those incidents seriously and immediately launched investigations, which are ongoing," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday wrote in a letter to the Navy community. "If we don’t eliminate extremist behaviors from our Navy, then racism, injustice, indignity, and disrespect will grow . . . If we must first question the intentions of our shipmate standing the watch with us, now, and especially, when taking fire, we will fail when the nation needs us most in combat."

At U.S. Pacific Fleet, commander Adm. John Aquilino and Fleet Master Chief James Honea visited the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, where an NCIS investigation is under way into the origins of hate speech graffiti recently found on board. 

“I have policies in the Pacific Fleet that we do not care what race you are, what creed you are, what god you pray to, what sexual orientation you are, or what gender you are,” said  Adm.Aquilino. “We are all sailors, we are all shipmates, and we are here to serve our nation and defend the Constitution. I owe you a safe place to work so that you can execute your mission and fulfill your oath.”

Aquilino and Honea also visited the cruiser Lake Champlain, the amphib USS Essex and the amphib USS John P. Murtha. Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener also visited USS Chafee, USS Stockdale, USS Cowpens and USS Tripoli to address sailors on board. 

“Extremism in our Navy is unacceptable,” said Adm. Aquilino. “We will not tolerate it. We will stomp this out, and we need your help to do it.”