Bastogne leaders and Soldiers engaged in an informative conversation and training course on the threats of extremism March 25.
The brigade, along with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), focused on discussing the issue of extremism in the military as part of a Department of Defensewide initiative, announced in February by our nation’s Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Leaders affirmed that Bastogne brigade is committed to confronting extremism within the Army, identifying the root of the problem and understanding the issue’s depth.
The Army does not tolerate extremism and other harmful behaviors among the ranks. The active participation generated discussions within the training assisted with the understanding of what those behaviors are, and how it impacts the Army and country.
The first order of business was not just explaining what extremism is, but to announce the “elephant in the room” of what is often perceived as reactionary training to a particular event or crisis. There are articles and thoughts circulating within the media that touch on extremism stand-down day as a “check the block” training event that will not solve the problem. The 326th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st BCT, started their training addressing that opinion.
Captain Jesse Hamilton, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 326th BEB, opened the training for his engineer battalion at the Joe Swing Center addressing some harsh criticisms that some Soldiers may share.
“I’m tracking what the Army Times and other articles state about the training the Army is doing with Soldiers,” Hamilton said. “A lot of the dialogue states it’s boring, dry and a knee-jerk reaction to a particular event but I need you to listen to me. This command, our battalion and I believe this training is needed and important.”
As training progressed, within the 326th BEB, the unit went over the oath of enlistment for both the officers and Soldiers.
First Sergeant Karl Akama, company first sergeant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 326th BEB, felt it was important for every Soldier and officer to read the oath, recite it and break down what the oath really means as each member of the Army is bound to each word.
“Some of us haven’t said the oath in a while,” Akama said. “I review this oath often. We are bound by this charge. Look at the words and understand the oath we all took. We are held to a higher standard.”
The theme of upholding the higher standard of the Army and as defenders of the nation and Constitution was the general theme across the brigade. Discussions of what an extremist activity is considering protests, personal opinions and the different groups and organizations is where the Soldiers began to understand the Army’s position.
Captain Cody Stroup, commander, HHC, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, led and moderated a discussion about the differences of groups and protests ranging from Antifa, Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter. The group discussed who is considered an extremist group and the Army’s position on protests.
“We are held to a higher standard,” Stroup said. “We can voice our opinions on things and share our thoughts. We all have freedom of speech. Yet, when it comes to the detriment of the United States, our Army and our country extremist thoughts and actions will not be tolerated.”
Beyond the discussions during Extremism Stand-Down Day, the Soldiers also received an opportunity to have a leadership inspect their barracks and put an emphasis on enhancing their living conditions. Leaders personally walked through the barracks with their Soldiers, annotated any maintenance deficiencies and listened to what the Soldiers required to enhance their living environment as part of the Army Barracks Maintenance Program.
Specailist Abdul Taylor, unmanned aerial vehicle maintainer, D Company, 326th BEB, was glad to see the brigade command sergeant major and his leadership personally look at his room, annotate any deficiencies and personally ask him what they can do to make things better.
“I believe this can fix some things that are wrong with this building,” Taylor said. “Our leadership is constantly in here trying to find ways to make it better here, and I know the renovations will definitely help.”
Every Soldier in the brigade participated in Extremism Stand-Down Day and understands the Army’s position. The Army will not tolerate any form of extremism and Soldiers are expected combat it within our ranks immediately should it occur.