The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division conducted a division wide stand down March 30 to bring a more direct focus on extremism in the ranks. The extremism stand down was part of a larger effort the Army is executing to shift its attention back to people and address head-on the harmful behaviors that tear at the fabric of its force, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, suicide, discrimination, extremism.
The Official Army Stand-To included a video message from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III addressing extremism in the military released February 19, 2021. Austin’s words inspired, reminded, and challenged every individual at every level to reaffirm their oaths of office and refocus our attention on people.
“A stand down like this can seem like yet another task to undertake, another burden,” Austin said in his video. “But the truth of the matter is we need your help. I am talking of course about extremism and extremist ideology. Views and conduct that runs counter to everything that we believe in and which can actually tear at the fabric of who we are as an institution.
“I want you to revisit the oath that you took when you joined the military and when you reenlisted and got promoted,” Austin continued. “Consider what that really means and think about the promise that you made to yourselves and to your team mates and to your fellow citizens.”
Austin also encouraged everyone to share your own personal experiences of extremism with your leadership and for leaders to listen to those stories and to any ideas you may have to help stamp out the dangerous conduct that this ideology inspires.
The Transatlantic Division has a longstanding legacy of not simply attending training and checking the box on training requirements and cultural observances, but using them to integrate awareness into everyday processes and interactions.
U.S. Army Brigadier General Kimberly M. Colloton, Transatlantic Division commanding general, reaffirmed her oath, along with the Division leadership and event participants, at the beginning of a virtual event to observe the extremism stand down and challenged her teams to use this stand down to “Stand Up” and not tolerate harmful behaviors and activities—such as extremism, racism, sexual assault and harassment—in our organization and in our ranks.
“It all comes down to Army values,” Colloton said. “When dignity and respect are an integral part of your organizational culture, situations that might be an indication of a deviation from those values will stand out and can be identified and addressed quickly. But this is not just a one and done task,” Colloton continued. “This is a continuous process woven through every activity and every interaction at every level of the division. It has to be a continuous part of everything we do.”
Throughout the stand down event, participants brought questions and scenarios to the surface and had some hard discussions on what extremism looks like and how we can learn to better address issues before they become acts of violence.
Deangelo Wynn, a Transatlantic Division executive assistant, had questions concerning how to approach “see something say something,” the Army’s motto and guidance on awareness and reporting inside the ranks, when high level leaders are involved.
“When you see leaders at the highest levels do something that falls within the parameters of extremism behavior or encouraging extremist behavior, and no one says anything, what do we, at lower levels, do at that point?”
Wynn also added, “I think the resources provided during this stand down are great, however, I think a lot of extremism stems from and goes unreported because of mistrust and distrust inside the government and in our own chain of commands. With that said, are government reporting resources the best methods to encourage reporting or are other resources needed?”
“While answers to these questions are not simple,” Colloton said, “the approach to continuing to try to answer them is - open, ongoing communication to continue building a platform of trust. And above all dignity, respect and assurance that your leaders are listening and that we are here to help address extremist behaviors at every level.”
Defining and identifying extremism is vital to addressing it in the ranks. This is an issue that takes as much community awareness and situational awareness as it does training. In a close knit organization like the Transatlantic Division headquarters, awareness of one another and the working environment is already a strong aspect in the culture of the organization.
“Being a small division staff creates a natural sense of community and connection within the Transatlantic Division, Senior Executive Service Officer John L. Adams, the Transatlantic Division Programs and Business director said. “This culture of community – of family – extends to our Task Force and Districts, creating a team of teams where people are valued for their diversity and our teams are strengthened by mutual respect, trust and a collective spirit of inclusion and equity.”
The Army is committed to building cohesive teams that are trained and disciplined, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Soldiers serving in the military continue to do so with honor, integrity, and character. They will uphold their oath to protect and defend the U.S. constitution and will not engage in extremist behaviors.
The Army continues to explore ways to educate the community on extremism risks and preventive measures. Learn more at: https://www.army.mil/standto/archive/2021/03/15/