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A Tuskegee hero and the oldest living Black West Point grad reflect on the US military and its first Black defense secretary

lloyd austin
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin participates in a ceremonial swearing-in with Vice President Kamala Harris, far right, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on January 25, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
  • Secretary Lloyd Austin is the first Black person to lead the entire Defense Department.
  • "We have a secretary of defense who can say 'I've been there, I've done that,'" a Black veteran told Insider.
  • A Tuskegee airman said it was "just amazing how the attitudes in the military" have changed.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Two celebrated Black veterans who shattered the military's color line heralded the arrival of the country's first African-American defense secretary as an exceptionally qualified officer and a sign of how far the services have progressed from the days of discrimination and segregation they once faced.

"One of the things that's unique about General [Lloyd] Austin, now Secretary Austin, is that he has commanded troops in combat at great levels during his generalship," said retired Army Col. Clifford Worthy, one of the first Black West Point graduates after the desegregation of the military.

"He's had such a distinguished career spent altogether."

Worthy, who will be 93 years old in March, was one of the two Black leaders who told Insider it was "amazing" how much racial attitudes have changed in the US military. Worthy noted that "considering the state of affairs we're in in this country," he had "a sense of security" given Austin's new role.

"You know, older I get, the more comforting it is to know that we have a secretary of defense who can say 'I've been there, I've done that,'" Worthy said.

clifford worthy
West Point cadet Clifford Worthy.

Worthy began his military career as a cadet in West Point in 1949, one year after President Harry Truman signed an executive order to desegregate the armed forces. The executive order, which was signed on the same day as a separate order to desegregate the federal workplace, mandated "that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin."

"Prior to that time, there were Black units and then there were white units," Worthy said. "Everything changed in 1948."

"Black young men did not dream of attending West Point when I was growing up," Worthy wrote in his memoir, "The Black Knight: An African-American Family's Journey from West Point - a Life of Duty, Honor and Country." "That was a privileged preserve of white men whose families were among the elite or had somehow caught the attention of US congressmen. Anyone who took the time to research the history of black cadets would have been scared away."

It was through happenstance in 1946 that he encountered a former cadet who encouraged him to apply for a recommendation letter from a congressional lawmaker, a prerequisite to enroll in a US military academy.

"I was visibly startled by the suggestion," Worthy recounted of the cadet's suggestion. "This was a preposterous idea!"

The former cadet persisted, arguing that "the only thing you have to risk is the cost of a three-cent postage stamp."

Worthy eventually relented and mailed a letter to then-Democratic Rep. John Dingell Sr. of Michigan, who approved the recommendation. His mother, who did not know of Worthy's application until the acceptance letter arrived in the mail, was not accustomed to military academies and viewed them as "out there someplace in the 'for whites only' world, like Hollywood or major league baseball," Worthy wrote in the memoir.

It was these memories of "how things had progressed over the years" that flowed through his mind after hearing of Austin's confirmation, Worthy said to Insider. He recalled the story of former US Army Lt. Henry Flipper, the first Black graduate of West Point in 1877, who was ostracized from his colleagues and staff members throughout his career.

Flipper, who was born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, shares the same hometown as Defense Secretary Austin, also a West Point graduate. The current West Point superintendent, US Army Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, is the first Black soldier to lead the 218-year-old institution.

"To think about how things could change since Flipper, and how now things have changed to the point we have a black secretary of defense …," Worthy recounted, lost in thought.

Tuskegee airman Charles McGee, 100, and his great grandson Iain Lanphier react as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Tuskegee airman Charles McGee and his great grandson Iain Lanphier watches as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 4, 2020.

Retired Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, one of the remaining living members of the fabled Tuskegee Airmen, the all-Black service members to pilot fighters and bombers in World War II, also took note of the milestone.

"Back then, with the attitudes and so on, I wouldn't have expected it to happen," McGee told Insider. "It could've happened a long time ago, probably. But the general attitudes by the majority leadership didn't. It just wasn't happening. You couldn't say it wasn't possible."

McGee, who is 101 years old, said it was "just amazing how the attitudes in the military" have changed since 1925, back when the Army War College released a racist study that claimed Black troops were inferior to whites - a claim that McGee and other Black troops would prove wrong. 

"Fortunately there were those leaders who believed in the opportunity [for us]," McGee said to Insider.

US Capitol Building riots
The aftermath of riots at the US Capitol Building.

Although Austin's confirmation is considered a ground-breaking step in improving race relations, the Defense Department continues to face challenges that embroil the military in controversy.

Following the social unrest in the wake of the George Floyd killing, the military was thrust into the political spotlight - not only in its response in quelling the nationwide protests, but also due to allegations that it remains complacent in rooting out domestic terrorism and other far-right movements within its own ranks.

This reckoning culminated in the violent storming of the US Capitol in January, where 5 people, including a police office, died. Several of the rioters charged by prosecutors have since been found to have ties to the armed forces. Although military leaders contend that racist and right-wing extremist views are held only by a small minority of its troops, lawmakers have demanded the Defense Department to address the issue.   

"I will fight hard to stamp out sexual assault, to rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity," Austin said during a Senate confirmation hearing in January. "The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies. But we can't do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks."

Army special warfare special operations
US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School students at Civil Affairs Specialist and Psychological Operations Specialist Graduation at Fort Bragg, North Carolina December 18, 2019.

One example of the Defense Department's actions to address the social unrest was to rename military bases that honor the namesake of Confederate-era leaders. The National Defense Authorization Act, which became law after Congress overrode President Donald Trump veto against it, includes a provision to rename bases and other military structures within three years.

For Clifford Worthy, the change is long overdue.

"The horrors of that Civil War and the long term impact on America since that time - we have not totally recovered from that," Worthy said. "And it's kind of a heart-rending … Some Confederate general who's being honored. Why is he there?"

Charles McGee cautioned that any changes should be thoroughly investigated and ought to take into account whether it could have an adverse affect.

"It depends on how we use the change," McGee said. "Because there probably will be those still around that won't like the name picked for the change. So what has been accomplished?"

"I think we're a long way from knowing whether the step is a good one … for the country," McGee added. "There's a lot that we have to look at and be careful [of]… does it serve all of us? Does it make it a better country?"

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Biden’s defense secretary is booting all of the Pentagon’s advisory board members for a fresh start after Trump’s ‘frenetic’ post-election changes

The Pentagon
Pentagon
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called for an "immediate suspension" of the department's advisory committee operations.
  • The secretary has also ordered the "conclusion of service" for all advisory board members.
  • The advisory boards are comprised of civilians appointed to provide bipartisan counsel.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for an "immediate suspension" of the department's advisory committee operations as it conducts a top-down review and ordered the removal of all advisory board members by mid-February, an internal memo said.

Austin, who was nominated by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the US Senate in late January, said that the Defense Department's review was being conducted to "align with our most pressing strategic priorities and the National Defense Strategy."

"Advisory committees have and will continue to provide an important role in shaping public policy within [the Department of Defense]," Austin said in his memo to the department. "That said, our stewardship responsibilities require that we continually assess to ensure each advisory committee provides appropriate value today and in the future, as times and requirements change."

In the memo, Austin says that "conclusion of service" for all advisory board members will take place no later than Feb. 16.

News of the changes to the department's advisory committees was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday afternoon. The latest news follows a report last week from Politico that the Pentagon had halted all appointments to the boards.

The various Pentagon advisory boards are comprised of civilians appointed by a defense secretary to provide bipartisan counsel on matters that range from business to military policy.

The intended nonpartisan goals of the committees were heavily scrutinized after acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller - who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump after he fired his defense secretary following the November election - purged the boards and installed a number of loyalists in the final weeks of the administration.

After Miller abruptly emptied out most of the Defense Policy Board, he cleared out much of the Defense Business Board. Changes to other boards then followed. He then selected loyalists like Trump's 2016 presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager David Bossie to fill the vacancies.

Some of the loyal individuals the administration sought to install on the boards included people who have been surrounded by controversy.

Scott O'Grady, a retired US Air Force F-16 pilot, was appointed to the Defense Policy Board in December. The war hero promoted several conspiracy theories in support of Trump's baseless claims that the presidential election was stolen.

O'Grady recently shared a tweet saying that " suggesting that martial law is not a bad idea when there is an attempted coup against the president," according to CNN, which also reported that O'Grady shared other debunked theories about the election, insulted former military officials, and retweeted at least one pro-QAnon hashtag.

Ret. US Army Gen. Anthony Tata, who was also appointed as an advisor, previously drew criticism for his characterization of former President Barack Obama as a "terrorist leader" with "Islamic roots."

As the Trump administration quickly moved to overhaul the advisory boards, an advisor on the Defense Business Board who survived the purge resigned in protest. In his resignation letter, Steve Blank wrote that by purging advisory boards and filling them with Trump allies, the Trump administration had "put the nation's safety and security at risk."

Speaking to the press Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the "frenetic activity" at the end of the Trump administration "deeply concerned" Austin and was a driving factor in his decision to clean out the boards and start over.

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Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis offers advice for young leaders: ‘Know your troops’

James Mattis
Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis
  • Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis offered some advice for junior officers leading their troops into combat.
  • "Listen to your non-commissioned officers, your chief petty officers," Mattis said. 
  • Mattis also stressed to leaders the importance of being physically fit — to set an example.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis offered some advice for junior officers leading their troops into combat, a question he described as one that he gets asked the most by younger service members.

Mattis, who served in the Marine Corps for over four decades and rose to the rank of four-star general, offered his insight to an online audience during a live-streamed talk with the Office of Strategic Services Society on Thursday. 

"Listen to your non-commissioned officers, your chief petty officers," Mattis said. "They don't expect you to do everything they tell you ... but they do expect to be heard."

The former defense secretary was briefly an enlisted Marine. He initially enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves when he was 18 years old, before graduating college and receiving his commission as a second lieutenant in 1971.

"That doesn't mean you walk in and say, 'Thank you. I'm gonna do what I've gonna do now,'" Mattis added. "It means you walk in, listen with a willingness to be persuaded. They were getting a master's degree in your line of work while you were still in high school. So listen to them."

Marines Corps Marine America

Mattis also stressed to leaders the importance of being physically fit - to set an example for those they are leading.

"Be as physically tough as your toughest troops," Mattis said. "There is no way that you can walk in there and not be physically at the top of your game; and expect that physical, rambunctious young troops are going to respect you."

"They really don't care that you've read [Carl] von Clausewitz or some other dead German," Mattis added, referring to the nineteenth-century military strategist. "They're going to assume you know how to call artillery support. But don't try to 'wow' them with your knowledge if you can't keep up with them on any run or outrun them."

Lastly, Mattis encouraged leaders to "know your troops" without crossing the line of professionalism between enlisted and commissioned officers.

"Don't give up one ounce of your authority, but come as close to the line that must necessarily separate you from your troops," Mattis said, adding that leaders needed to go beyond knowing "just their name."

"What are their hopes, what are their goals," Mattis said. "Do they want to stay in the Army or are they going to get out? Do they want to save money for a car, are they going to college some day?"

"The more you know about your troops, the more they know you care about them as individuals," Mattis added.

Mattis' candor and quotability have earned him a celebrity-like status in and out of the military. His resume earned him strong bipartisan support in Congress after he was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as his defense secretary.

At one point he reportedly told Iraqi military leaders: "I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f--- with me, I'll kill you all."

Mattis resigned from his post at the Pentagon one year into the Trump administration, citing his differences the president's foreign policies. According to a book written by a former aide, US Navy Cmdr. Guy Snodgrass, Trump's behavior during his presidency conflicted with Mattis' recent advice for junior leaders.

During a Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting at the Pentagon in January 2018, then-President Trump derailed a briefing by injecting politics into the conversation about the Defense Department.

"You know, I blame everything on the Democrats," Trump said at one point before glancing at Mattis.

"What about Afghanistan?" Trump said, according to Snodgrass. "How are we doing over there?"

Mattis began speaking and then Trump interrupted again. Trump was "not impressed" by the US's and allies' previous efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, Snodgrass wrote in his book, "Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis."

"Seriously, who gives a s--- about Afghanistan?" Trump added, according to Snodgrass. "So far we're in for $7 trillion, fellas ... $7 trillion including Iraq. Worst decision ever and we're stuck with it."

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Jim Mattis: America was ‘born with a birth-defect’ and it’s ‘still dealing with the after-effects of it’

Jim Mattis
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis awaits the arrival of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani for an Enhanced Honor Cordon and meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2018.
  • Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he believed that the country's education system needed to teach "the good, the bad, the ugly."
  • Mattis noted that "our country was born with a birth-defect that we imported from the Old World — called slavery — and we're still dealing with" it. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during a panel discussion said he believed that the country's education system needed to reemphasize certain principles, including teaching "the good, the bad, the ugly."

During his live-streamed talk with the Office of Strategic Services Society on Thursday, Mattis said he believed that education in the US should not gloss over uncomfortable topics, such as the effects of slavery, which still reverberated in contemporary society.

"As I look at the way American history is taught in our public schools, in many of our universities, I'm not sure how much affection I would be building in my students the way it's being taught," Mattis said.

"I believe in teaching the good, the bad, the ugly - and our country was born with a birth-defect that we imported from the Old World - called slavery - and we're still dealing with the after-effects of it," he added.

Mattis' comments come as senior US military leaders have grappled with the racial inequality protests throughout the country in recent months. The protests culminated in a dramatic stand-off as National Guard forces were deployed in several states, and federal troops were placed on stand-by orders in the summer.

Military leaders like US Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued memos that said the services were aware of the "frustration" many Americans were feeling, and that the military needed a transparent discussion about the effects of racial injustice.

Adm. Mike Gilday, the Navy's top officer, said in a video that "we can't be under any illusions about the fact that racism is alive and well in our country ... and I can't be under any illusions that we don't have it in our Navy."

US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown Jr., who is African American, also released an emotional video outlining his own experience in the work place. 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

The generals' consensus comes as some congressional lawmakers have repeatedly downplayed the effects of racial injustice in recent years. Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania previously questioned whether racial injustice was a prolific problem in the country, saying that "if there's a system, someone had to create that system."

"Someone is operating and nurturing the system to keep it going," Perry said in 2020, according to The York Dispatch. "I don't know who in our country is doing that ... That belies the fact we had a war among the United States over that issue to cleanse our country of that issue."

Mattis, who earned a reputation as "warrior-monk" for his scholarship while in uniform, noted that the country's "first principles" ought to be reinforced in the classrooms.

"How many of us are brought up today with a love for America," Mattis said. "How many of us realize that we have no ordained right to exist - that every generation has had to fight for this freedom, this, what George Washington in his first inaugural called 'an experiment.'"

"There's just a sense that 'we've just got it,'" he added. "And we've got to get back to that and understand how precious this is."

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Pittsburgh’s mayor tells Ted Cruz to ‘leave us out’ after dragging the city into his climate change attack

Ted Cruz
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
  • When Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas threw cold water on President Joe Biden's decision to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was hit in the crossfire.
  • Cruz condemned Biden's executive order and said "President Biden indicates that he's more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh."
  • "Last time I checked, Sen. Cruz did not represent Pennsylvania," Peduto told Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas threw cold water on President Joe Biden's decision to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, a Pennsylvania mayor was unintentionally hit in the crossfire.

Hours after being sworn-in on January 20, Biden issued more than a dozen executive orders, including one to rejoin the Paris accords to reduce emissions. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, pulled out of the agreement early in his term, sparking concern around the world. The US is second-largest producer of carbon emissions, following China.

Cruz immediately responded to Biden's executive action by issuing a statement condemning the decision as harming US jobs, and that "by signing this order, President Biden indicates that he's more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh."

Cruz's comments immediately caught the attention of Pittsburgh's mayor, Democrat Bill Peduto, roughly 1,000 miles away from the Texas.

"Last time I checked, Sen. Cruz did not represent Pennsylvania," Peduto told Insider, saying that Pittsburgh has a fast-growing base of renewal energy jobs and that the city hasn't been dependent on the fossil fuel industry in five decades.

AP lauren boebert
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado

This was not the first time a Republican lawmaker invoked the city of Pittsburgh or other P-named cities in their opposition to a substantial, long-term investment in renewable energy.

When President Trump withdrew from the accord in 2017, he said in his press conference, "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

While France is one of the 195 signatories of the Paris accord, the international agreement is not designed to appeal to or benefit Parisians in particular. The agreement was drafted by diplomats in Paris, similar to the way the Geneva Conventions for armed conflict and its treaties around the world originated in Geneva.

Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, the freshman congresswoman who brands herself as an uncompromising antithesis of progressive lawmakers like Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, also chimed in by tweeting: "I work for the people of Pueblo, not the people of Paris."

(Pueblo, a city in Boebert's congressional district, is home to Vestas' world's-largest wind turbine tower manufacturing plant. The company invested $1 billion for its four factories throughout Colorado and employs over 3,400 people in the state, 800 of whom are based in Pueblo. The factory manager previously said one of the reasons to be based in Pueblo was because of "Colorado's commitment to growing its renewable energy industry.")

Bill Peduto
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speaks at a Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 17, 2019.

Many Republican lawmakers like Cruz and Boebert have stated they are not opposed to initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, but that they are concerned about declining employment numbers.

According to Mayor Peduto; however, the data these Republican lawmakers rely on do not paint the full picture. In Pennsylvania, clean energy jobs grew by 6% in 2018, five times faster than the state's overall employment growth, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs. In a state where 70% of residents believe global warming is occuring, Pennsylvania ranked fourth-place for the fastest-growing state in the renewable energy industry.

"What Ted Cruz is doing, is that he's threatening all those who have moved to create this next Pittsburgh," Peduto said, adding that the senator's comments were "a simple political jab at what we were, and not what we are."

"The fact is that the Pittsburgh he refers to is not the Pittsburgh of today," Peduto added. "His idea that this is a city that survives on heavy industry and on fossil fuel basically hasn't been that way since [the 1970s]."

But Cruz appears to have cashed in on the viral catchphrase - his campaign website is advertising bumper stickers saying "PITTSBURGH > PARIS."

"I would prefer if he would leave us out of his political campaign slogans," Peduto said. "Obviously the people of Pittsburgh feel much differently than he does."

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Man caught with pipe-bombs and a replica of ‘Hitler’s Buzzsaw’ machine gun also carried a fake ‘White Privilege’ credit card

ian rogers
The fully-operational pipe bombs found at the scene.
  • A man was charged Tuesday with possessing five fully operational homemade bombs "and materials to make more," according to the US Attorney's office in the Northern District of California.
  • Officers found a total of 49 firearms, including a replica of a World War II-era German MG-42 machine gun nicknamed "Hitler's buzzsaw."
  • Investigators found a mock credit card with "45" as its numbers and labels like "WHITE PRIVILEGE CARD" and "TRUMPS EVERYTHING"
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A man was charged Tuesday with possessing five homemade bombs "and materials to make more," according to a criminal complaint from the US Attorney's office in the Northern District of California.

Ian Rogers was charged after the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Napa County Sheriff's Office searched his home and his business, where law enforcement officials discovered a large gun safe containing the pipe bombs and other building material.

Officers found a total of 49 firearms, including a replica of a World War II-era German MG-42 machine gun that initially appeared to be capable of firing fully automatically. The belt-fed machine gun was nicknamed "Hitler's buzzsaw" capable of firing well over 1,000 rounds per minute.

Rogers, who admitted to making the bombs, said they were for entertainment. Bomb technicians from the Sheriff's Office found the devices were fully operational and "could cause great bodily harm ... if handled improperly," prosecutors said.

But FBI investigators said they found other evidence at the scene that indicates the bombs were "not just for entertainment purposes." 

Investigators found copies of the US Army's Special Forces guide for unconventional warfare in addition and a guide on guerilla warfare.

ian rogers
The mock credit card found at Ian Rogers' property.

Text messages also found on Rogers' phone also included violent statements, such as "I want to blow up a democrat building bad," as recently as January 10.

"We can attack Twitter and democrats easy right now burn they're s--- down," Rogers is alleged to have wrote.

"The democrats need to pay," another text message said. "Let's see what happens, if nothing does I'm going to war ... I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn't I will."

"45" is widely believed to refer to former President Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States. Investigators found a mock credit card with "45" as its numbers and labels like "WHITE PRIVILEGE CARD" and "TRUMPS EVERYTHING"

Rogers' text messages also indicated he was an ardent supporter of Trump, according to investigators. Rogers, who appeared to believe Trump had won the 2020 US presidential election, believed attacking institutions he thought were sympathetic to Democrats would "ensure Trump remained in office."

Rogers is being charged with an unlawful possession of an unregistered destructive device, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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Former Navy SEAL who oversaw bin Laden raid says people ‘don’t have to look at a president’ to find American values

Ret. Adm. William McRaven
Ret. US Navy Adm. William McRaven.
  • Retired Adm. William McRaven, a former US Navy SEAL commander and head of US Special Operations Command, had a hopeful message for aspiring public servants.
  • "When the locals see that, they believe in America," McRaven said of public service, in a podcast. "They don't have to look at a president, they don't have to look at Congress, they don't have to look at a Secretary of Defense — they've got to look at the people that are on the ground, meeting with them everyday. That's who represents America."

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Retired Adm. William McRaven, a former US Navy SEAL commander and head of US Special Operations Command, had a hopeful message for aspiring public servants, particularly those who feel distraught by an absence of moral leadership by high levels of government.

"The country has always had these times in history where people have questioned the moral leadership of a president or the country," McRaven said in The General and The Ambassador Podcast. "But the fact of the matter is, we need great young men and women in the foreign service; in the Department of Defense; in the intelligence community, in law enforcement; in the Peace Corps; because our values are the things that are transmissible to other countries."

"We really do believe that people ought to be treated with respect," McRaven added. "And when you see that in the young [United States Agency for International Development] workers, and the young foreign service officers ... when the locals see that, they believe in America. They don't have to look at a president, they don't have to look at Congress, they don't have to look at a Secretary of Defense - they've got to look at the people that are on the ground, meeting with them everyday. That's who represents America."

McRaven also argued that America's ideals were "fungible across the world," and that "anybody that thinks otherwise has never spent time overseas."

"It isn't all the people with all of the flash and flair," McRaven said. "It's the young men and women who espouse and live the American values - that's what makes a difference. I would encourage anybody graduating from high school or college find an opportunity to serve. You'll never, ever regret it."

usaid

McRaven's comments come as President Joe Biden prepares to usher in a new era of American foreign policy.

The Senate confirmed Antony Blinken as Biden's Secretary of State on Tuesday. During his confirmation hearing to become America's top diplomat, Blinken, presented a view of US foreign policy that differed greatly from the previous administration.

Blinken assured lawmakers that he and others in the new administration will make rebuilding global alliances and re-engaging in international affairs priorities. "American leadership still matters," he said.

"Working across government and with partners around the world, we will revitalize American diplomacy to take on the most pressing challenges of our time," Blinken said, noting that "America, at its best, still has a greater ability than any country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good."

Biden's predecessor, President Donald Trump, campaigned on placing "America First." Trump's critics scrutinized his rhetoric and foreign policy measures, which they alleged alienated and abandoned allies and emboldened adversaries, Russia in particular.

Mattis and McRaven SEAL Navy Marine Corps
Gen. Mattis and Adm. McRaven at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting in March 2013.

Among those critics was former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. The retired Marine Corps general resigned from his post in 2018, writing in his resignation letter that Trump deserved an Pentagon chief "whose views are better aligned" with his.

"My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed over four decades of immersion in these issues," Mattis wrote. "We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by our alliances."

In November, Mattis published an op-ed urging Biden to eliminate all of Trump's "America First" policies, replacing them with "the commitment to cooperative security that has served the United States so well for decades."

McRaven has also weighed in on Trump's worldview. In a past New York Times opinion column, titled "Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President," McRaven wrote that Trump's policies endangered the trust from America's allies.

"If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can't have faith in our nation's principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military," McRaven wrote. "And if they don't join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us - where will the world end up?"

McRaven held numerous leadership positions within the special-operations community during his 37 years in the armed forces, including overseeing the successful military raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in 2011. After retiring from the Navy, he went into academia.

The retired admiral has written three books on service and leadership, including "Make Your Bed: Little Things That can Change Your Life ... And Maybe The World," "Sea Stories: My Life In Special Operations," and "The Hero Code: Lessons Learned From Lives Well Lived."

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Air Force’s top officer says he was compelled to tackle racial injustice, even though his promotion was on the line

cq brown
US Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.
  • Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown Jr. explained the rationale behind his decision to release a revealing statement about racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd.
  • At the time, Brown was awaiting the results of a potential promotion.
  • "Dad, what are you going to say,'" Brown recalled of a conversation he had with his son.
  • When his expected confirmation did not take place on a certain date, Brown said he told himself, "Okay, I'm just going to do it."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The top US Air Force officer explained why he decided to release a revealing statement about racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd, and the protests that followed in the summer of 2020.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown Jr. said he "really debated" about his response to Floyd's killing after a phone conversation he had with his son, who was "really struggling with the events."

"He asked me, 'Dad, what is [Pacific Air Forces] going to say,'" Brown said in an interview with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

At the time, Brown was the commanding officer of the Air Force's assets in the Pacific region. 

"What he was really asking me was, 'Dad, what are you going to say,'" Brown added, his voice breaking with emotion.

Earlier in May, Brown had testified before the US Senate to be confirmed as the next Air Force chief of staff. Around two weeks later, George Floyd was killed by police officers while being arrested. The killing prompted a wave of massive protests and demands for racial justice around the country.

Brown, who was awaiting to be confirmed to lead the entire Air Force as its first Black leader, was in a delicate situation.

"I did not want to step on the toes of ... my predecessor, but at the same time, I had airmen that were wondering what I was thinking about," Brown said.

west point
US Army cadets march on to the field before the 121st Army Navy NCAA college football game, December 12, 2020, in West Point, New York.

Military leaders, particularly those still in the service, have avoided discussing politically-charged topics in an effort to appear apolitical. When discussing the matter of race, military leaders have traditionally been even less decisive, often relying on boilerplate statements about their opposition to racism.

"So I was kind of on the fence because I really wanted to say something," Brown said. "But I was also kind of waiting for confirmation."

When his expected confirmation did not take place on a certain date, Brown said he told himself, "Okay, I'm just going to do it."

Brown released a recorded statement in which he explained his personal experience with racial injustice in the Air Force.

"As the Commander of Pacific Air Forces, a senior leader in our Air Force, and an African-American, many of you may be wondering what I'm thinking about the current events surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd," Brown said in his statement.

"I'm thinking about how full I am with emotion not just for George Floyd, but the many African-Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd," he said. "I'm thinking about protests in 'my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty,' the equality expressed in our Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution that I've sworn my adult life to support and defend."

"Conversely, I'm thinking about the Airmen who don't have a life similar to mine and don't have to navigate through two worlds," Brown added. "I'm thinking about how these Airmen view racism, whether they don't see it as a problem since it doesn't happen to them or whether they're empathetic."

Brown's statement, which was initially intended for service members under his command, circulated through the Air Force and went beyond the military.

"I had no intention for it to go as broadly as it did," Brown told The Post. "But in hindsight, I'm glad it did, because it's many of the things that I've dealt with, what our sons have dealt with, and many others that look like me have dealt with. Not just African Americans, but you can talk about any diverse group within our country that has dealt with the level of either discrimination or disparity."

"And from that aspect, I've never been afraid to speak up, and I far exceed any place I ever planned to be," Brown added. "But I always wanted to say what's on my heart, and that's what I did."

Brown was eventually confirmed and became the first Black officer to command a US service branch. The four-star general has over 2,900 flying hours at a fighter pilot, 130 hours of which were in combat.

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‘This is about my politics’: Tom Cotton says his military record was scrutinized because he’s a ‘conservative veteran’

Tom Cotton
Sen. Tom Cotton speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for Rep. John Ratcliffe on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC on May 5, 2020.
  • Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas shrugged off a news report suggesting he previously embellished his military achievements.
  • Cotton claimed the scrutiny was a politically-motivated attack.
  • "But if some people disagree, that's fine," Cotton said in a Fox News interview. "I respect their views, but what's most important, I respect the service of all Rangers, and indeed, all soldiers who volunteer to serve our country."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas shrugged off a news report suggesting he previously embellished his military achievements, and instead, said the recent scrutiny was a politically-motivated attack.

"I graduated from the Ranger School, I wore the Ranger tab in combat with the 101st Airborne in Iraq," Cotton said during a Fox News interview on Monday. "This is not about my military record. This is about my politics."

Cotton blamed a "liberal media" for accusing him of appropriating the title of a US Army Ranger because "a conservative veteran was using the term that way."

"But if some people disagree, that's fine," Cotton said. "I respect their views, but what's most important, I respect the service of all Rangers, and indeed, all soldiers who volunteer to serve our country."

Cotton's rebuttal follows a Salon report published Saturday, in which the news outlet claimed he had passed himself as an Army Ranger in statements and campaign advertisements. According to the report, Cotton and his campaign described him as having "volunteered to be an Army Ranger" and was an "Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Army Ranger
US Army Rangers complete a swimming event during the notoriously challenging Best Ranger Competition, part of the annual Infantry Week competition, April 2019.

The term "Ranger" is reserved for soldiers who served with the US Special Operations Command's 75th Ranger Regiment based out of Fort Benning, Georgia. The 75th Ranger Regiment requires its soldiers to complete a eight-week selection process.

Cotton, however, did not serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. He attended the US Army's Ranger School, a separate eight-week leadership course that teaches service members light-infantry tactics. The school is open to volunteers from all of the US military's branches, including the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Being a "Ranger" and attending Ranger School is often confused or used interchangeably. While the distinction is rarely brought up outside of military circles, it has been fiercely debated among veterans and encapsulates the nuances of military titles.

Speaking to a Ranger School graduation ceremony in 2015, US Army Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of the service's infantry school, told service members, "You carry the title of Ranger. From here on out, your subordinates, your peers, your leaders, will always expect you to be able to handle the toughest tasks."

Instructors at Ranger School often address their students as "Ranger" and also require service members to repetitively chant "Ranger" while performing exercises.

Serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completing the Army's Ranger School are both significant accomplishments. The vast majority of service members have neither served in a special operations unit nor attended Ranger School, both of which are physically and mentally grueling tasks. Neither are required to be eligible for the other - the only exception being that 75th Ranger Regiment leaders, such as commissioned officers, are required to complete Ranger School.

Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a soldier who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, accused Cotton of appropriating the title and uploaded a picture of himself wearing a tan beret:"Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn't be calling yourself a Ranger. Truth matters."

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‘You shouldn’t be calling yourself a Ranger’: Tom Cotton’s military service is under scrutiny from a fellow Army veteran in Congress

Tom Cotton
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
  • Republican Sen. Tom Cotton's past characterization of his military service is drawing scrutiny from critics.
  • A recent Salon report resurfaced a longtime debate over military titles.
  • Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a US Army veteran, took note of the debate said that the "truth matters."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton's characterization of his military service is drawing scrutiny from critics, including lawmakers who previously served in the US Army.

The junior senator from Arkansas' service record resurfaced on Saturday after Salon published a story about his past congressional campaign advertisements and statements. According to the report, Cotton and his campaign described Cotton as having "Volunteered to be an Army Ranger," a term traditionally reserved for soldiers who served with the 75th Ranger Regiment based out of Fort Benning, Georgia.

The 75th Ranger Regiment requires its soldiers to complete its own eight-week selection process. Upon completing the course, soldiers are allowed to wear a distinctive tan beret with their uniform.

Cotton, however, did not serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. He attended the US Army's Ranger School, a roughly eight-week leadership course that teaches service members light-infantry tactics. The school is open to volunteers from all of the US military's branches, including the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Ranger School graduates are allowed to affix a "Ranger tab" - a symbol denoting the completion of the course - on their uniforms.

army ranger

Being a "Ranger" and having earned a Ranger "tab" is often confused due to the similarity of their names. While the distinction is rarely brought up outside of military circles, it has been fiercely debated among veterans and encapsulates the nuances of military titles.

To be clear, serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completing the Army's Ranger School are both significant accomplishments. The vast majority of service members have neither served in a special operations unit nor attended Ranger School, both of which are physically and mentally grueling tasks. Neither are required to be eligible for the other.

Cotton's time in service is also distinct from many service members. He deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, and has served in combat units like the 506th Infantry Regiment.

Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a US Army veteran, took note of the debate and remarked on Twitter, "Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn't be calling yourself a Ranger. Truth matters."

Crow, who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, also uploaded a picture of himself wearing the Army's tan beret.

Cotton's spokesperson told Insider in an email on Saturday that the congressman had characterized his service appropriately.

"To be clear, as he's stated many times, Senator Cotton graduated from Ranger School, earned the Ranger Tab, and served a combat tour with the 101st Airborne, not the 75th Ranger Regiment," communications director Caroline Tabler said.

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