Sailors engaging with an offensive post regarding white supremacism on social media could themselves be viewed as contributing to extremism in the service, according to Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr.

“Just by posting, retweeting, or liking an offensive post on social media — you could be participating in extremism,” Nowell said in a new video shared on Facebook.

“You may not personally know any shipmates with extremist beliefs,” Nowell said. “But I assure you that those forces of darkness are among us.”

The video coincides with the release of a new naval administrative message that directs commanders and commanding officers to conduct a stand-down, before April 2, to address extremism in the service, in accordance with a directive from the Pentagon issued earlier this month.

Commanders and commanding officers will be provided materials including a discussion guide, supplementary slides and other resources to facilitate discussions as part of the stand-down, the NAVADMIN said. Although leaders have the flexibility to customize the training, the stand-down must reaffirm and cover the meaning of the oath of office/enlistment, behaviors that violate the oath, Uniform Code of Military Justice direction on extremist activities, what is acceptable behavior on social media, and the duty to report cases of extremism.

Among other things, the stand-down must also include listening sessions focused on the Navy’s core values and Culture of Excellence campaign, along with the findings of Task Force One Navy, which were unveiled Feb. 3.

“The intent of this stand-down (which may be conducted virtually or in-person with the appropriate COVID-19 mitigations) is to ensure service members and civilian personnel clearly understand the damaging effects of extremism and begin developing more effective, sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive impacts extremist activity can have on our Force,” the NAVADMIN says.

Extremism consists of promoting supremacist causes, and discrimination against others based on their race, creed, color, sex, religion, sexual preference or national origin, Nowell said in the video. Likewise, it also includes advocating for violence against the government and elected leaders.

In addition to engaging with offensive posts on social media, activities that also support extremism are demonstrating, rallying, fundraising, recruiting or training on behalf of organizations that espouse extremist beliefs.

“Now this extremism stand-down that we’re embarking on is more than just one day of training,” Nowell said. “It is a stepping stone to how we can better listen, better learn and better communicate with our shipmates. … Extreme ideology has no place within our Navy.

“We must get after this issue, and we must eliminate conduct that is driven by extremist beliefs,” he said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered commanding officers and supervisors to complete a stand-down on extremism in the services following the insurrection and attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Almost 20 percent of those charged in connection with the events from Jan. 6 have ties to the U.S. military, based on analysis from NPR.

Additionally, a Military Times survey from 2020 found that 36 percent of all active-duty troops claimed they had personally seen examples of white supremacy and racism within the military. A sample size of 1,630 active-duty Military Times subscribers was used for the poll, which was conducted in the fall of 2019.

The Navy is uncertain how many sailors it has ousted from the service due to “supremacist or extremist conduct,” Navy Times previously reported. That’s because the Navy does not record how many sailors have been separated under the corresponding section of the Naval Military Personnel Manual for extremist behavior.

The Navy is aiming to make adjustments, and Navy Personnel Command officials told Navy Times this month that future improvements will modify current legacy systems and data bases “into a high quality integrated authoritative data environment” in order to advance the service’s tracking abilities.

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