DoD Emphasizes Policy on Supremacist Groups
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 1995 In the wake of two recent murders in Fayetteville, N.C., defense officials are again emphasizing DoD's policy concerning military personnel participation in supremacist organizations.
There is no place for racial hatred or extremism in the U.S. military, Defense Secretary William Perry said in a press release. He said every service member takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
"The men and women in the military understand the gravity of this oath," said Perry. "Department of Defense policies state that military personnel may not actively participate in organizations that espouse supremacist causes."
Perry's statement came after Fayetteville police found Nazi flags and supremacist material in the mobile home where they arrested two murder suspects -- Army Pfcs. James A. Burmeister, 20, and Malcolm Wright, 22. Both were charged with two counts of first degree murder in the Dec. 7 deaths of Michael James, 36, and Jackie Burden, 27, both of Fayetteville.
A third soldier, Spc. Randy Meadows, 21, is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. Meadows allegedly drove the vehicle that transported Burmeister and Wright.
All three serve with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. Both Fayetteville police and the Army Criminal Investigation Division at Fort Bragg continue their investigations.
The incident prompted Army Secretary Togo West to form a review board to investigate extremist and supremacist activities within the Army. West appointed Maj. Gen. Larry Jordan, the Army's deputy inspector general, to head the board. Jordan is to report findings to West by March 1, 1996.
After passing condolences to the victims' families during a Pentagon press conference Dec. 12, West echoed Perry's remarks. "Involvement in extremist organizations, whether active or passive, will not be tolerated," said West, who added it is inconsistent with military service.
"First, it is at war with the basic principles of fairness and dignity that we require to perform as effective units," said West. "Secondly, a unit that is in any way polarized by extremist views or activities is a unit that is not ready. And thirdly, as a slice of America, every unit ... is expected to conform and in many ways reflect the values of American citizens."
West added while mere membership in an organization is not prohibited, membership would have an adverse impact on an individual's promotion potential and career advancement. He also alerted Army leaders to their responsibility toward this issue, saying all officers and NCOs are responsible for counseling soldiers and ensuring they are aware of the policy.
Although service regulations differ in wording, most guidelines on participation in extremist organizations are the same. Service members must reject participation in organizations that:
o Espouse supremacist causes;
o Attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, gender, religion or national origin;
o Advocate the use of force or violence or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.
Additionally, defense instructions prohibit service members from:
o Participating in supremacist or extremist rallies or demonstrations;
o Knowingly attending meetings or activities while on active duty, when in uniform, when in a foreign country or in violation of off-limits restrictions or orders;
o Conducting fund-raising activities;
o Recruiting or training members (including encouraging others to join);
o Organizing or leading a supremacist or extremist group;
o Distributing extremist or supremacist literature on or off military installations.
Perry said the policies of the Department of Defense clearly prohibit racial intolerance and discrimination in any form. "Equal treatment, respect and trust are values that the men and women in the military take very seriously," said Perry. "These values are fundamental to a just society, and they are fundamental to military effectiveness. Military training stresses these principles, military conduct requires their observance."