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Former Army Ranger discusses what he learned about racism in the military after 15 tours in Iraq, Afghanistan

A retired Army Ranger said the military was a melting pot that already stamped out racist tendencies even before the Pentagon started launching initiatives.

The Department of Defense under Secretary Lloyd Austin has taken several steps aimed at eliminating extremism from the service and expanding equity. But extremism and racism aren’t issues within the ranks, since such beliefs are incompatible with unit cohesion – a necessary element for combat victory, the former Ranger, Jariko Denman, told Fox News.

“You as an individual are not important,” he said. “The mission is important, and your teammates are important.”

“You always put your teammate before yourself,” Denman, who served 20 years in the Army, added.

PENTAGON ROLLS OUT ‘EQUITY’ PLAN

Most recently, the Pentagon released its “Equity Action Plan,” which aims to “establish a holistic strategy for continuing to cultivate enduring and equitable change.” It was part of the Pentagon’s assessment “to identify potential barriers that underserved communities and individuals face,” the report said.

The plan outlines actions the department will take, such as seeking “new investments in underserved communities around military bases and installations” and driving “towards more equitable outcomes for students of color, students with disabilities, and other underserved students in DoD schools.”

“While the Department has historically focused on increasing equity within the DoD community, the collective actions described in this plan represent a shift in the Department’s approach and focus to better ensure that we leverage our capabilities to create opportunities for all Americans,” the report said.

The plan also includes a “summary of accomplishments,” which notes how Austin last year issued a one-day stand down order “for discussion of the principle that all those who support DoD’s mission deserve an environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment.”

US Marine Corps recruits take part in the traditional Eagle, Globe and Anchor medal ceremony. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

A 2017 Military Times survey found that nearly one-quarter of troops polled said they witnessed White nationalism within the ranks. The publication reported similar results in subsequent polls.

Denman said racism and other forms of bigotry is most often seen among new recruits who haven’t been previously exposed to a diverse population. But those preconceived notions disappear soon after joining the military’s melting pot, the retired Ranger said.

“People come from all walks of life to come to the military,” Denman, who retired in 2017, told Fox News. “People that came in with some of those views – they were racist, they were sexist, they were homophobic – it didn’t take long for them to lose it.”

“All of the kind of ignorance that leads to extremist behavior, it’s squashed because you’re immersed in all these other cultures,” Denman added. “You’re immersed with all these other types of people.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Austin’s stand down order also “included a focus on how extremist or dissident ideologies violate the fundamental principles of the Department,” the equity plan said.

“The overwhelming majority of those who serve in uniform and their civilian colleagues do so with great honor and integrity, upholding our core military values and oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution,” Maj. Charlie Dietz, a Pentagon spokesman, told Fox News. “However, we owe all of our people an environment free from prohibited extremist activities, and we owe our country a military that reflects the founding values of our democracy.”

More than 30 current and former service members, including Denman, said they’d never witnessed extremism among the ranks, Fox News reported in a previous investigation. The Pentagon and outside groups have repeatedly failed to produce evidence that the military is a breeding ground for violent radicals, Fox News found.

“Seeing all these people of all walks of life, different races, different creeds, different sexual orientations, all this, doing great things together and then to have our government come in and say ‘the military has an extremism problem,’ it’s a slap in the face,” Denman, who came from a military family, said.

The Defense Department identified less than 100 instances of confirmed extremist activity in 2021, the Pentagon reported in December. It didn’t provide a precise figure or identify any specific instances.

“While we know that case rates of prohibited extremist activities per military service have been in the low double digits over the past several years, we believe that we can always do better,” Dietz said. “Our service members are worth it. And, good order and discipline demand it.”

In response to the Pentagon’s finding and the stand down order, the service members told Fox News that dedicating time to rooting out extremism could harm combat readiness.

“For us to be focusing organizational energy within the military on problems that don’t exist is worrisome,” Denman said.

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