Garrison stands down to stand against extremism

Jessica Stonesifer, director, Directorate of Public Works, answers questions from DPW employees March 25 during extremism awareness training at Cole Park Commons. The training was mandatory for all military personnel and Army Civilians, per a memorandum from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Campbell Soldiers and Civilian employees came together March 25 for extremism awareness training as part of an Army-wide campaign to address the impacts of extremism in the workforce.

Colonel Jeremy D. Bell, Fort Campbell garrison commander, led the session from Wilson Theater while the majority of attendees participated from satellite locations via Microsoft Teams. The training was mandatory for all military personnel and Army Civilians, per a memorandum from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“Extremist ideology is not new to our ranks, and we cannot allow the ideology to gain traction and erode our core values,” Bell said.

“The Army’s No. 1 priority is our people, so we are proactively addressing these issues to remove these activities from within our ranks and provide an environment that’s conducive to good order and discipline,” he said.

Bell said extremism runs counter to the Army’s core values and oaths, degrades mission readiness and can drive a high-performing organization like Fort Campbell into the ground if left unchecked.

“I’m not naïve enough to think that extremist ideology and behavior doesn’t exist here on Fort Campbell, but I also don’t think it’s a pervasive problem,” he said. “Even though it may not be pervasive, any type of behavior of this kind is destructive to the organization, and that’s why we’re here talking about it today.”

Extremism can take on many forms, including racially or ethnically motivated violence, threats of sedition and domestic terrorism. In a video address, Austin said he has witnessed extremism firsthand as both a Soldier and a commander.

“It’s not new to our country, and sadly it’s not new to our military,” he said. “What is new is the speed and the pervasiveness with which extremist ideology can spread today thanks to social media and the aggressive, organized and emboldened attitude that these hate groups and their sympathizers are now applying to their recruitment and their operations.”

The Fort Campbell community can help curb the influence and impact of extremist ideology by thinking carefully about all communications, whether in-person or online, and by showcasing dignity and respect for others, Bell said.

“If we just think about what we do before we do it, we will solve a lot of the problems before they become problems,” he said. “It goes hand-in-hand – or hand in glove – with Army Materiel Command and Installation Management Command’s newest initiative, and that is ‘This is My Organization.’”

“This is My Organization,” or TiMO, is a new initiative that magnifies the pride shared by all members of AMC and IMCOM strengthened by the history and lineage of the institution. It underpins the Army’s comprehensive and deliberate effort to weed out destructive and impermissible behaviors and to improve climate and organizational performance, said IMCOM Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Douglas Gabram, in his address to the IMCOM workforce.

Every IMCOM Soldier and Civilian employee is responsible for actively supporting and adopting TiMO initiatives into their culture, he said.

Soldiers and Civilian employees who observe potential extremist behavior at Fort Campbell are asked to report it directly to their first line supervisor, commander or U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. They also can call the iSalute Insider Threat Hotline at 800-225-5779.

It can be difficult to report a fellow Soldier, especially if he or she is a friend, said Cpt. Braden Thomas, a professor of administrative and civil law at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, in a video address.

“Being a good Soldier means taking care of each other and taking action when signs of trouble are observed, especially in situations when a Soldier appears as if [he or she is] about to make a poor decision,” Thomas said.

Reporting those incidents can help prevent Soldiers from making a worse mistake, help improve command climate and keep extremist behavior from threatening other Soldiers or Civilians, he said.

Bell said any reports will be taken seriously, investigated and communicated to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and IMCOM.

“I can personally assure you that our command continues to strengthen an environment free of discrimination, hate and harassment to provide a culture where everyone will be shown dignity and respect,” he said. “Nothing is more corrosive to our commitment to build and maintain a cohesive team than extremism … leaders have an inherent responsibility to protect against extremist behaviors.”

The garrison is working to address extremism on multiple fronts, starting from the onboarding process for new employees.

Proper onboarding is the most effective way to prevent an organization from being undermined, Bell said. The onboarding process allows the command and staff to clearly communicate Fort Campbell’s values at the earliest opportunity.

Recurring listening sessions for employees that began in the fall also are being used as opportunities to solve problems at the lowest level and address any concerns over extremist behaviors, he said. Employees can expect to see those sessions pick back up, potentially on a monthly or quarterly schedule.

“I think decentralizing it as much as possible and having directorates organize these is going to be important as we move forward,” Bell said. “Certainly, our command group will do its share of listening sessions as well.”

Bell also opened the floor for questions and feedback to involve employees in finding solutions to extremism.

One employee attending the training through a satellite location offered two suggestions: recurring training to communicate Army values and the civilian creed after the onboarding process, and smaller, supervisor-led discussions covering similar ground.

“I like the values-based approach,” Bell said.

Through those types of measures, Fort Campbell will emphasize a continued fight against extremism and its impact on the Army.

“The fight to stamp out extremism and additional impermissible behavior does not end at the conclusion of this training,” Bell said. “We have sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and I ask that you revisit your oath and be mindful with the use of social media, blogs and the internet to provide an environment conducive to good order and discipline.”

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