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Military-wide stand downs expected to be complete by Thursday

Military stand downs across the Department of Defense to address extremism, ordered in February by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, pictured in Kabul, Afghanistan, last week, are expected to be finished on Thursday. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/DoD/UPI
Military stand downs across the Department of Defense to address extremism, ordered in February by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, pictured in Kabul, Afghanistan, last week, are expected to be finished on Thursday. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/DoD/UPI
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March 31 (UPI) -- Stand downs to deal with extremism in the U.S. military are expected to be completed by Thursday, when an order from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ends.

By Thursday, all service members "should have been in a conversation about extremism" as the U.S. military sought to reinforce its personnel's commitment and listen to their thoughts, according to a Pentagon press release.

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In February, Austin issued a 60-day stand down order for all military units to deal with extremism in the ranks after active and former military personnel were found to be in the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

The stand down primarily has focused on commitment to the oath, to defend the Constitution, each service member takes, as it pertains to what the Pentagon believes is a growing problem of extremism among troops.

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Officials did not, however, gather data during the stand down. The department was looking to "get a sense" of how members of the military view the conversation, said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The Defense Department remains unaware of how large a problem extremism in the military is, Kirby said -- though he noted it may not be as big as some think.

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"We don't have a perfect understanding of the scope of it. I think we want to get a better sense of it and the stand down was just a first step in doing that," Kirby said in the Tuesday press release.

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"It's just a first step, not meant to be a panacea, not meant to solve all the problems, just to reorient everybody to the importance of service to this country in the Defense Department and the chance to listen to them," Kirby said.

Collected data will be analyzed, and recommendations made, after Austin asked in February that a "deeper" look at the issue be taken across the Department of Defense.

The Pentagon noted in February, ahead of the stand downs, that 30 of the first 190 people arrested in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol are veterans, and three are current National Guard reservists.

RELATED Pentagon report warns extremists use military to boost legitimacy, combat skill

Evidence of threatening racial behavior has also recently been reported on U.S. warships and barracks.

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