The Navy confirmed that the commander of the Pacific Fleet has met with sailors aboard four ships in San Diego for “candid discussions” about extremist ideologies in the service
The Navy said Adm. John Aquilino and Fleet Master Chief James Honea met on Monday with crews aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser Lake Champlain, amphibious assault ship USS Essex and amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha as well as crews of two helicopter squadrons.
The meetings were part of stand downs ordered by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in a Feb. 5 memo and follow reports of racist incidents aboard the Carl Vinson and Lake Champlain.
In one case being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, hate speech graffiti was discovered in a bathroom aboard the Carl Vinson. NCIS is also investigating a noose incident aboard the Lake Champlain.
Aboard the Vinson, which is underway off San Diego, Aquilino and Honea hosted several round table discussions with sailors assigned to the carrier and its air wing. During the sessions, they listened to sailors share experiences of discrimination and took suggestions on what the Navy could do to address these issues.
“I have policies in the Pacific Fleet that we do not care what race you are, what creed you are, what god you pray to, what sexual orientation you are, or what gender you are,” said Aquilino. “We are all sailors, we are all shipmates, and we are here to serve our nation and defend the Constitution. I owe you a safe place to work so that you can execute your mission and fulfill your oath.”
“Extremism in our Navy is unacceptable,” he added. “We will not tolerate it. We will stomp this out, and we need your help to do it.”
Separately the commander of naval surface forces, Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, met with sailors aboard the USS Chafee, USS Stockdale, USS Cowpens and USS Tripoli at Naval Base San Diego.
Rep. Sara Jacobs, a member of the House Armed Service Committee, expressed outrage at the reports of racist incidents aboard San Diego-based warships and called for “comprehensive action” to address extremism in the military
“This is especially painful to see because, for generations, the United States Navy and military communities like ours in San Diego have been bonded by a shared sense of service and duty,” Davis said in a statement.
“This troubling report follows the January attack on the Capitol, which featured a disproportionally large number of rioters and insurrectionists with military ties,” she added.