More than two years ago, three 82nd Airborne Soldiers were arrested and later convicted for their roles in a pair of racially motivated murders in Fayetteville.
A short time after the murders, there was another incident, this one on post. Several swastikas were painted on the doors of the special forces barracks. Sgt. Robert Washington was never charged, but he was forced out of the Army. Since then, racism in the ranks hasn't publicly surfaced at Fort Bragg -- until now.
At this point, it is unknown what led fellow instructors to accuse the three officers of having extremist views. Whatever the views, the Army has suspended the three men from their teaching duties and transferred them to another unit until the investigation is complete.
The officers were teachers at the JFK Special Warfare Center. A group of other instructors turned them in. They told authorities they heard talks of extremist views and saw related printed material.
"Extremist activity is inconsistent with the military and what they value and what they stand for," said Lt. Col. Pete Pierce of Fort Bragg Special Operations. "So any time a report comes to the chain of command, they are going to take the appropriate steps and investigate it."
The chairman of the Fayetteville Human Relations Commission says extremist views are not uncommon -- on and off post.
"It exists and I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that it doesn't because we don't hear about it," said commission chairman Sandy Sweitzer. "So if they found people who have suspected ties and were able to deal with it before anyone was hurt, that is what we are here for."
In fact, the Army says this latest incident is a perfect example of how its sensitivity training is working. In 1995, shortly after three Fort Bragg soldiers were arrested for a pair of racially motivated killings, the army cracked down. Suspected skin heads were kicked out of the military, policies were rewritten, and extremist awareness training was beefed up. The Army believes its no-tolerance policy is the reason why the instructors at the JFK Special Warfare Center reported their suspicions.
The Fayetteville chapter of the NAACP is aware of the investigation. President Raymond Shipman says he is waiting on the results of the investigation.
Two years ago, Fort Bragg conducted a survey on the racism in the ranks. More than 14,000 soldiers were questioned. Fort Bragg says it identified 22 as having some ties to extremist groups. Of those soldiers, nine, including Malcolm Wright and James Burmeister, were singled out for having neo-Nazi views.
All 22 of the soldiers were either not allowed to re-enlist, or they were kicked out of the Army.
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