Air Force Academy grads revolt against superintendent's 'both sides' position on violent extremism
U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Jonathan Whitely

One dozen graduates of the Air Force Academy wrote an open letter against white supremacy that was published on Saturday in the Air Force Times.

"In late March, the U.S. Air Force Academy held its Department of Defense-mandated extremism stand-down training to examine and to eradicate extremism and white supremacy within the ranks. Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke spoke of extreme ideologies on "both sides," rather than confronting the unique flavor of the extremism threat on display Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol," the group, led by Esteban Castellanos, wrote.

"Many USAFA graduates feel the mild response to the insurrection from the academy and its Association of Graduates failed to reflect these values and stands counter to everything they publicly expect of graduates. We are disappointed and feel that leadership has failed our graduates, the members they lead, and ultimately the citizens of this country," they explained. "Simply put, many of our leaders are underreacting to the attack. We need them to state, unequivocally, that the insurrection was wrong, intolerable and against our values and oath of service to the Constitution. They must state publicly and emphatically that those within our ranks who participate in, or are sympathetic to, the organizations that took part in the riot at the Capitol are not welcome in our ranks because they are supporting domestic insurrectionists and terrorists."

The group worried about the number of veterans who participated in the insurrection.

"Approximately one in five of the insurrectionists were veterans, according to criminal charging reports. They included at least one U.A. Air Force Academy graduate. Many more veterans are sympathetic to the insurrection, espouse the lies upon which it was based, or are participants in related causes," they explained. "Air Force Academy class Facebook pages and other social media sources show clear evidence that our officer corps members either do not take the threat seriously or support the underlying insurrectionist groups, many of which hold white supremacist ideologies."

And they wondered if there might be financial motives for failing to call out right-wing extremists.

"Where does the academy and its AOG leadership stand on white supremacy within our ranks? Are they afraid of alienating large donors that may sympathize with the terrorists' cause instead of doing the right thing?" they wondered.

"The academy's lack of a strong rejection of the insurrection is, in effect, a political stance, one which undermines trust as well as good order and discipline within the ranks and the graduate community. Additionally, many of us, as service members of color and our allies, feel the insurrection was not only an assault on American democracy but on the value of all as equal citizens in this country. We saw our government nearly overthrown after an election victory brought about, in large part, by people of color," they wrote. "This is personal and painful for those who have served because we've fought for our Constitution and for the rights of our fellow citizens. Any more hesitation or equivocation in doing so risks losing the trust of the very Americans we have sworn to defend."