Skinheads in the Military

News Summary: "Extremism in the Ranks," Newsweek/March 25, 1996 by Gregory L. Vistica

In Fayetteville, N.C. James Burmeister and Malcolm Wright, white men from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. allegedly shot an African-American couple.

During an investigation "In the men's closets, police found Doc Martens with white laces, red suspenders, leather jackets with Nazi patches - skinhead uniforms. Burmeister's bedroom sported nazi flags and swastikas." They had neo-Nazi tattoos. Meanwhile, the Army claimed that there were only 22 skinheads in all of the 82nd Airborne and they were taking "corrective action."

Although the army is highly integrated, there is still a "white warrior culture" in some bases. The Pentagon has not decided whether to downplay such activity or admit there is a problem.

Combat troops are less integrated than the army as a whole. The "Tim McVeigh types" are often found amongst these. Skinhead type groups have been know by the army to have a presence near many bases. Togo West Jr., Secretary of the Army, said "it is a concern to me."

The army has tried to make race a non-issue in their ranks, though in the 1960's and 70's there were race problems. Presently 61% of soldiers are white and 27% black.

The Army has tried hard to handle racial problems with sensitivity training and watching for problems, but this has simply driven the racist types undercover.

"Despite its disclaimers, the army has been aware of its small but troubling white-supremacist cell for some time," says Newsweek. The Army learned that the racists organized in "cells" that were supposed to split if they got to 6 people. The Army tries to keep tabs on such people and arrested two soldiers from Fort Stewart in Georgia after they shot a tourist with a blowgun.

Since even skinheads have First Amendment rights, there isn't much that can be done unless they break the law... "The skinheads haven't taken over the army, but a few still lurk in the shadows."

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