Fort Leonard Wood units stand-down to address violent extremism

Brian Hill
Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood service members and civilians are getting training on their roles regarding the elimination of extremism from the Department of Defense, in line with an initiative announced in February by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“There is not a single doubt in my mind that you take seriously your oath to the Constitution; and that you serve this country with honor, dignity and character; and that you believe in, and uphold, our core values each and every day,” Austin said in a video played at the beginning of each training session. “We need your help. I’m talking, of course, about extremism and extremist ideology — views and conduct that run counter to everything that we believe in, and which can actually tear at the fabric of who we are as an institution.”

Stand-down briefings taking place in person and virtually through March 31 here are meant to remind every service member and employee of their duty to reject and report participation in extremist organizations and activities, including those that advocate — among other things — racial intolerance or discrimination; use of force to deprive individuals of their constitutional rights; and advocating or teaching the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Army Training and Doctrine Command senior leaders and staff facilitated a discussion March 10 on the Army Profession with command teams and leaders.

Maj. Gen. James Bonner, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, attended TRADOC’s session and stressed its importance.

“Along with our headquarters, we are re-training the entire team — military and civilian — in the values we have always held,” Bonner said. “DoD places the highest importance on treating every person with dignity and respect, in an inclusive environment, free from discrimination and extremism. Service members and civilians alike must report and reject any part of these activities. We are part of the world’s greatest profession and must hold ourselves to the highest standards of character and conduct.”

In a virtual briefing Tuesday, Col. Jeff Paine, Fort Leonard Wood Garrison commander, said it’s important for service members and employees at all levels to “be trained and educated on appropriate actions when we see indicators of extremism.”

Paine said prohibited actions in support of extremist organizations or activities include, but are not limited to, participating in a public demonstration or rally; attending a meeting or activity with knowledge that it involves an extremist cause; fundraising; and recruiting, training or organizing members of extremist organizations.

In addition to explaining policies, the briefings also included vignettes of on- and off-duty situations meant to spur discussion. Cyber activities, such as posting, liking and sharing ideas and information on social media, were also addressed in the briefings.

Paine said personnel are responsible for the content they publish on all personal and public internet domains, and participation in internet sites sponsored by extremist organizations and activities is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service. Army personnel are urged to speak up if they notice any violations and self report if involved in extremist activities, intentionally or not.

An uptick in peaceful and legal domestic protests and demonstrations over the past several years has “provided opportunities and emboldened violent extremist groups to take a more aggressive approach in their actions,” Paine said.

“These groups are known to actively target current and former military personnel,” he added. “Based on the oath that we took and based on what we signed up to defend, even one (extremist in the DoD) is too many if it’s something that prevents us from doing our job of protecting our nation.”

Personnel should report threats, extremist behavioral indicators and other counterintelligence matters to their chain of command, law enforcement or through Army programs such as iSalute. Visit https://www.inscom.army.mil/isalute or call 1.800.225.5779 to make a report.

Col. Jeff Paine, Fort Leonard Wood Garrison commander, addresses garrison Soldiers and civilians on policies regarding extremism March 17 at Lincoln Hall Auditorium. Units here — in line with a Department of Defense initiative announced in February by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin — are ensuring every Soldier and Army civilian has an understanding of their roles in eliminating extremism from the military. Photo by Dawn Arden