Tradition is strong in the military, regardless of the branch. However, a platoon in Alaska may have taken the idea of “tradition” a bit too far and created something questionable.
A platoon in Alaska at Fort Wainwright is currently under investigation for something that’s come to be called “Racial Thursdays.” According to reports, Racial Thursdays offer the men in the platoon one day a week to freely use racial slurs against each other without retaliation by the recipient. The platoon is part of the 1/25 Stryker Brigade Combat Team – the 2nd platoon, C company, 3rd battalion, 21st infantry regiment.
Authorities were first notified of the Racial Thursdays practice via an informal complaint by a platoon member according to KTVA Alaska. Lieutenant Colonel Alan Brown, a U.S. Army Alaska spokesperson, said yesterday that officials have previously been made aware of the issue of Racial Thursdays.
“An informal complaint was made through command channels about this alleged behavior. The command has assigned an investigating officer and the investigation in the form of a commander’s inquiry is ongoing. The command is extremely sensitive to any complaints that involve equal opportunity or discrimination and will investigate every allegation.”
What started as an informal complaint has turned into an official investigation. According to Brown, the next step for the military is something called a 15-6 investigation. He said that the 15-6 is a “formal investigation where the commander appoints an investigating officer to gather all the facts in a particular case and makes recommendations to the commander.” Reprimands, if any, will then be decided upon and executed by the commanding officer.
Lieutenant Colonel Brown went out of his way in his report to emphasize and reiterate how seriously the army takes such allegations.
“Treating all soldiers with dignity and respect is something this command takes extremely seriously, and when there are any indications that those values are not being followed, the command will absolutely make inquiries, conduct appropriate investigations and take action as necessary.”
The story of Racial Thursdays might end right there as an ill-advised practice that the military was dealing with. However, in 2011, this same Alaska platoon came under fire after the investigation of Private Danny Chen’s death.
Private Danny Chen died in a guard tower in Kandahar, Afghanistan after serving at Fort Wainwright. The initial reports were that Chen had committed suicide – though that assumption has since been put into question.
According to military investigators, Chen was the target of racial slurs by his superiors and endured physical beatings from his fellow soldiers. Reportedly, his superiors singled Chen out for being Chinese-American. The beatings and “hazings” went on for over six weeks according to the report. During that time, Chen was subject to excessive guard duty to the point of exhaustion, he was made to do push-ups while holding water in his mouth and he was put in a “simulated sitting position” and “knee-ed” by other soldiers.
On September 27th, 2011, Chen was reportedly dragged by a sergeant over 15 meters of gravel, leaving a roadmap of cuts and bruises across the soldier’s back.
The dragging incident was reported to Chen’s platoon sergeant and squad leader. However, it was allegedly not reported to any superior officers.
On the day that Danny Chen died, on October 3rd, 2011, Chen was reportedly forced to crawl across over 100 meters while his fellow soldiers threw rocks at him.
He was found in a guard tower in Afghanistan, the alleged victim of a self-induced gunshot wound.
Perhaps in light of Private Danny Chen’s death, it’s a bit clearer to understand why the military spokesperson is so adamant that the platoon is taking Racial Thursdays so “seriously.”
[Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]