Secretary of Defense orders military-wide ‘stand down’ to address extremism in ranks

(Photo by Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images)
Caption
(Photo by Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images)

Credit: U.S. Air Force

Credit: U.S. Air Force

Wright-Patterson and other installations expected to be part of order.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered a Department of Defense-wide “stand down” in the next two months to focus on political and ideological extremism in the ranks.

Austin and Army Gen. Mark A, Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met Wednesday with service civilian leaders and service chiefs to discuss the problem of extremism, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.

The order is similar to the August 2019 Air Force order for all wings, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and its missions, to stand down for one day to focus on suicide prevention and emotional well being.

The Pentagon also is reviewing how to improve screening of military recruits to eliminate extremism in its ranks after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 served as a “wake-up call” when members of the military were discovered to have participated, a defense official said.

The services screen roughly 500,000 applicants each year who seek to join the military, of which about 200,000 enter as new recruits.

Some of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were active-duty service members and others were military veterans, the Pentagon noted in a release Wednesday.

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Two Dayton-area residents, Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, both of Champaign County, are accused of working with an Oath Keepers leader from Virginia and others to join that mob, with the intent of stopping Congress from certifying the electoral college votes from this past November’s election.

“The vast majority of men and women who serve in uniform and the military are doing so with honor, integrity and character, and do not espouse the sorts of beliefs that lead to the kind of conduct that can be so detrimental to good order and discipline and in fact is criminal,” Kirby said.

“No matter what it is, it is … not an insignificant problem and has to be addressed,” Kirby said during a press event in the Pentagon.

The stand down is expected to happen over the next 60 days, Kirby said, so “each service, each command and each unit can take the time out to have these needed discussions with the men and women of the force.”

“Current DoD policy expressly prohibits military personnel from actively advocating supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes or actively participating in such organizations,” a spokeswoman for the 88th Air Base Wing said in a statement Thursday. “Discrimination of any kind, for any reason, goes against the Department of the Air Force’s core values and will not be tolerated within the ranks.

The stand down date hasn’t been scheduled yet at Wright-Patterson.

The Air Base Wing is “waiting for higher headquarters implementation guidance on the projected down day. In the meantime, our leadership will continue to engage in difficult conversations and hold people accountable for any actions inconsistent with our core values,” said Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Stacey Geiger.

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