Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Lopez, NMCB 3
U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 completed an all hands extremism stand down to address the topic March 26, 2021 as ordered by Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Lloyd Austin and in compliance with Navy leadership.
The order was issued to military services Feb. 5 by the SECDEF. In a Feb. 19 Naval message, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr. said “the intent of this stand-down is to ensure service members and civilian personnel clearly understand the damaging effects of extremism and begin developing more effective, sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive impacts extremist activity can have on our force.”
Prior to the training, Seabees watched a video from the SECDEF discussing the intent of the training that was distributed command wide. They then gathered in small groups over several days to receive the training from NMCB-3’s triad and other leaders such as the command managed equal opportunity manager, company commanders and company chief petty officers.
The stand down was meant to be a first step in addressing the issue and create an atmosphere of reflection and thoughtful discussion. Leaders began the training with reading and discussing the Chief of Naval Operation’s Recent Message to the Fleet Regarding Extremism and the affects of extremism in the ranks.
“Extremism and disrespect of any kind are antithetical to our mission and the values that each and every one of us swore to uphold,” said Cmdr. Jonathan Niemen, NMCB-3’s commanding officer. “Extremist and supremacist actions have no place in NMCB-3 or in our Navy whether in person or online. These actions degrade the trust in our ranks that is at the heart of serving our Nation.”
While the training was an opportunity for Seabees to listen, learn and improve, Nieman recognized that the vast majority of the Navy do not support extremism, but the training was an important opportunity for all hands to focus on the core of the issue.
“I understand that those displaying extremist behavior in our Navy are of a very small minority,” said Nieman. “However, I challenge each of you to take this time to think about about how you can take action when you see something and weed this behavior out. I have confidence that the ‘Better Than Best’ will continue to treat each other with respect, celebrate our diversity as our strength, stand up to extremist behavior and remain committed to our shared mission.”
The training underscored the significance of the Oath of Office/Enlistment that each service member takes depending on rating or rank. After discussing their provisions and meanings, officers reaffirmed the Oath of Office while enlisted Seabees reaffirmed their Oath of Enlistment.
“When we swore to support and defend the Constitution, we did not swear allegiance to a political party, candidate, group or ideology, but to defending democracy,” said Lt. Cmdr. Adam Gerlach, NMCB-3’s executive officer, before administering the oath. “Our democracy was founded on ‘We the People of the United States’ forming a more perfect union. Extremist ideologies run counter to that cause and the oath we swore to uphold, and that is why it’s important that we reaffirm our oaths today.”
Key to the discussions were defining what extremism ideology is. According the the Navy’s Equal Opportunity Instruction, extremist ideology and groups attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex (including gender identity), sexual orientation, or religion; advocates using force or violence; or otherwise engages in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.
“There’s absolutely no room for this kind of thinking,” said Command Master Chief Kevin Nolan. “Serving in the Navy is honorable, but it’s also a privilege. We have the privilege of bringing together America’s best from all different backgrounds to be a role model in diversity for others, including some of the Nations biggest companies. At the end of the day, I don’t care about your color, religion, sex or anything else. I know that you have ‘U.S. Navy’ on your chest and I have your back and nothing else matters.”
After defining the issue, the Seabees broke up into even smaller groups for a conversation about what Seabees can and cannot do according to government regulations with examples to provide context and increase dialogue. Topics included actions in the workplace and personal lives, as well as political and social media activity.
One key takeaway was that while all Americans enjoy the Constitutional right of freedom of speech, service members’ rights are balanced with the military’s mission of being apolitical, maintaining loyalty to the United States, and upholding good order and disciple in the force.
Finally, the discussions culminated in ensuring that Seabees knew what resources are available to them and how to handle extremist behavior and report it to the command managed equal opportunity manager or chain of command.
NMCB-3 is home ported in Port Hueneme, California. Seabees are the expeditionary engineering and construction experts of the naval service. They provide task-tailored, adaptable and combat-ready engineering and construction forces that deploy to support Navy objectives globally.