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YARS takes a stand against extremist ideology

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Grossi
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Reserve Citizen Airmen assigned to Youngstown Air Reserve Station confronted extremist ideologies by participating in a Department of Defense-wide stand down (a pause in unit training) May 1 & 2, 2021, here. As directed by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, the purpose of the stand down was to address extremist ideologies and to understand the scope of the problem within each installation’s ranks. 

The one-day stand down was a result of recent civil unrest, which intensified at the U.S. capitol riot last January. Afterward, it was revealed that a number of current and former service members were involved in the assault. According to DoD subject guidance, some of those service members were also found to have ties to extremist groups. Although the issue of extremism in the military is not new, the United States Air Force and its sister branches maintain the position that it is  unacceptable for service members who take an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution to engage in actions that are in direct conflict of this commitment. 

“This stand down is just the first initiative of what I believe must be a concerted effort to better educate ourselves and our people about the scope of this problem and to develop

sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive effects that extremist ideology and conduct have on

the workforce,” said Austin. “We owe it to the oath we each took and the trust the American people have in our institution.”

            Unit stand downs at YARS began with several pre-recorded addresses regarding extremism in the force. These messages were shared with the intent of making service members aware of why the stand down was taking place and to ensure that what is expected of them is fully understood. Small, physically-distanced group discussions were guided by a facilitator and covered three topics: the importance of the oath of enlistment, impermissible behaviors and procedures on reporting suspected or actual impermissible behaviors. 

Airmen were further instructed on what constitutes impermissible behaviors. 

Interest in extremism can be characterized by watching videos, reading literature or visiting websites promoting impermissible ideologies. Individuals who make statements sympathizing with impermissible ideologies or those who make social media posts aligning with extremist causes are considered to be engaging in impermissible behavior through language. Though these behaviors are deemed concerning, “active participation” via the association, action and advocacy for extreme ideologies is what the DOD considers presumptively impermissible and must be reported to the judge advocate, base law enforcement or office of special investigations. 

A few examples of behaviors relating to “active participation” include paying dues, wearing of tattoos or symbolic clothing representing organizations, participating in demonstrations or rallies or fundraising for/or distributing propaganda of impermissible  organizations or causes. 

“Units used this time to engage with their members in discussion and reinforce cohesion and connectedness and address and up-channel feedback in addressing extremism,” said Col. Joe Janik, 910th Airlift Wing commander.  “Extremists recruit those who lack a sense of belonging. By rooting out extremism and fostering inclusion, we can thwart those efforts.”