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Troops See White Nationalism As Bigger Threat To US Than Afghanistan And Iraq
With ISIS on the ropes after losing crucial strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa, U.S. service members are turning their attention to a domestic threat they see as more dangerous than the distant battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria: white nationalism in the ranks.
More than 30% of service members see white nationalism as a significant threat to national security, according to a Military Times poll of 1,131 troops between Sept. 7 and 25, weeks after violent clashes at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, launched the specter of extremism within the armed forces into the national spotlight. By comparison, only 27% said the same about Syria, 22% for Afghanistan, and 17% for Iraq — results that suggest a fighting force increasingly wary of domestic threats to good order and discipline.
Every branch of the military currently prohibits association with extremist organizations inconsistent with both the responsibilities of service and the principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. But in 2008, an FBI report found that “white supremacist leaders are making a concerted effort to recruit active-duty soldiers and recent combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” suggesting that most hardcore extremist groups “have some members with military experience, and those with military experience often hold positions of authority within the groups to which they belong.”
After revelations that several key leaders of the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that heightened tensions in Charlottesville were veterans (or engaged in such activity while on active duty), the Department of Defense has sought to tighten recruitment restrictions to filter out potential extremist elements. According to the Military Times poll, 60% of active-duty troops “would support activating the National Guard or reserves to handle civil unrest arising from white nationalist activities” like Charlottesville.
Most interestingly, the data suggests that the issue of white nationalism isn’t a question of racism or social justice shaped by a service member’s personal experience within the military: Yes, 42% of non-white troops said “they have personally experienced examples of white nationalism in the military” compared to just 18% of their white colleagues. But given that 76% of those polled identified themselves as white, the stark relationship between white nationalism and foreign war zones as perceived threats suggests that service members of all races and background are currently on watch for the scourge within their ranks not as a bastion of racism, but a threat to the U.S. armed forces’ mission.
"You're always concerned with what's right in front of you," a retired Air Force colonel told Military Times. "What you saw happen in Charlottesville is right in your face. It's here in the U.S., as opposed to Pakistan or Syria."
The Navy is investigating reports that a female Marine discovered a hidden camera in one of the women's restrooms aboard the USS Arlington, an amphibious transport dock that's currently on at port in Greece, NBC News originally reported.
Today, an American service member died in a "non-combat incident" in Ninawa Province, Iraq according to a statement by Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.
"I held one [sailor] in my hands as he passed. He died in my arms."
It's been 30 years since an explosion inside the number two gun turret on the USS Iowa killed 47 American sailors, but for Mike Carr, it still feels like yesterday.
"I knew all 47 guys inside that turret because as part of the ship's policy we had rotated between all three turrets," Carr, who served as a gunner's mate in the Iowa's aft 16-inch turret, told Task & Purpose. "We all knew each other rather intimately."
On April 19, 1989, the day of the blast, the ship was preparing for live-fire training at Vieques, Puerto Rico Naval Training Range.
Carr was wearing headphones that allowed him to hear what the crews in the other turrets were saying.
"At 10 minutes to 10 a.m., somebody came over the phones and said, 'We're having a problem, Turret 2, center gun,'" Carr recalled. "Then approximately two minutes later, I recognized Senior Chief [Reginald] Ziegler, who was the chief in charge of Turret 2, yell into the phones: 'Fire, fire, fire! Fire in center gun, turret 2. Trying to contain it.'"
Then came the blast, which was so strong that it ripped the headphones right off Carr's head.
Organizations offer training, certifications, networking to connect veterans, businesses
As a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a newly minted second lieutenant, I felt well-prepared to tackle the challenges facing a junior field artillery officer in the U.S. Army. When the time came to leave the Army, however, I was much less prepared to make the transition into the yet-unknown civilian sector.
One of the primary issues facing veterans after we transition is that we lack the same sense of purpose and mission that we had with our military careers. Today, more than ever, our service members volunteer to put themselves in harm's way. They are defending our freedom across the globe and should be recognized as our country's true heroes. It's critical that employers educate veterans and provide viable options so we can make informed decisions about the rest of our lives.
The two-star general in charge of the roughly 15,000-strong 2nd Marine Division has turned micromanagement into an art form with a new policy letter ordering his Marines and sailors to cut their hair, shave their faces, and adhere to a daily schedule that he has prescribed.
In his "Policy Letter 5-19," Maj. Gen. David Furness lamented that he has noticed "a significant decline in the basic discipline" of troops he's come in contact with in the division area, which has led him to "FIX IT immediately," instead of relying on the thousands of commissioned and non-commissioned officers below him to carry out his orders.