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Navy chief calls for measures to combat extremism after incidents on ships

U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. John Aquillino addresses sailors aboard the USS Carl Vinson after Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday ordered a stand down to address issues of extremism within the Navy. Photo by MCS Mason Congleton/U.S. Navy
U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. John Aquillino addresses sailors aboard the USS Carl Vinson after Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday ordered a stand down to address issues of extremism within the Navy. Photo by MCS Mason Congleton/U.S. Navy

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Additional measures must be instituted to combat political and racial extremism in the Navy, Adm. Mike Gilday said in a message to the fleet.

"I am certain the vast majority of men and women in the United States Navy serve with honor, character, and integrity," the Chief of Naval Operations' statement said on Tuesday. "But we cannot be under any illusions that extremist behaviors do not exist in our Navy."

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Although he did not identify them, Gilday referred to "two separate incidents where symbols of hate and violence were anonymously left in living areas aboard ships in our fleet."

The comment is an apparent reference to the discovery in January of a noose above the bunk of a Black sailor aboard the USS Lake Champlain guided-missile cruiser, leading to the confession and removal from the ship of another sailor, and another incident in which hate speech graffiti was discovered in a bathroom aboard the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier within the past week.

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The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has examined both incidents.

Gilday ordered a stand-down of each Navy command, by April, to address the issue of extremism within the ranks, noting that "No doubt, this is a leadership issue...this stand-down is another in our efforts to listen, to learn, and to improve."

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Gilday's statement came after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a military-wide stand down on Feb. 3, to deal with extremism in the military's ranks after active and former military personnel participated in the insurrectionist mob that stormed the Capitol building in January.

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"The DOD Instruction expressly prohibits military personnel from actively advocating for and participating in supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology or causes," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a Feb. 3 statement announcing Austin's order.

A stand-down order indicates an off-duty status and a temporary relaxation from a state of readiness. The first came on Tuesday, when leaders of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet addressed San Diego-area commands while aboard the USS Carl Vinson.

U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. John Aquilino and Fleet Master Chief James Honea met with crews aboard several ships for what a Navy statement termed "candid discussions with sailors, focused on eliminating extremist ideologies in the military."

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"I have policies in the Pacific Fleet that we do not care what race you are, what creed you are, what god you pray to, what sexual orientation you are, or what gender you are," said Aquilino. "We are all sailors, we are all shipmates, and we are here to serve our nation and defend the Constitution. I owe you a safe place to work so that you can execute your mission and fulfill your oath."

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