- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The top officers in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force presented a united front against the bigotry and racism fueling recent clashes between white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, ending with one dead and 19 wounded.

The multiple statements by the defense chiefs Tuesday night and Wednesday morning did not mention President Trump or who was at fault in Charlottesville, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes it illegal for a commissioned officer to say anything that can be interpreted as a direct criticism of the president.

But the messages appeared to draw a clear line between the president’s mixed reaction to the confrontation and the clear line they were setting for soldiers, sailors and Marines.

The clearly coordinated messages also come amid other signs of tension between Mr. Trump and the military brass, who were also caught off guard by Mr. Trump’s sweeping order last month banning transgender troops from serving in the military.

“The shameful events in Charlottesville are unacceptable and must not be tolerated. Our thoughts and prayers go to those who were killed and injured, and to all those trying to bring peace back to the community,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “The Navy will forever stand against intolerance and hatred.”

His counterpart, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, tweeted that there is “no place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC.”

“Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act,” the four-star general added.

Marine Corps officials said Gen. Neller was motivated in part from reports that one of the lead organizers of the neo-Nazi rally was a Marine veteran. Marine spokesman Lt. Col Eric Dent told the Washington Examiner that the statement “was not meant as a stab at the president, rather should serve as a reaffirmation of who we are and what we stand for.”

Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, the service’s top officer, said that there is no room for hate or racism in the armed forces. “I stand with my fellow service chiefs in saying we’re always stronger together. It’s who we are as Airmen,” Gen. Goldfein said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the actions taken by neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan, who were in Charlottesville protesting against the taking down of a Confederate war memorial, were simply intolerable.

“The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775,” Gen. Milley tweeted.

James Alex Fields Jr., the man accused killing one woman and injuring 19 after ramming his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, had briefly been enlisted in the Army. But Mr. Fields was dismissed shortly after entering basic training, after failing to meet the service’s physical standards.

While Mr. Trump has promised to bring new funding and political support to the military compared to President Obama, there have been clear signs of tension since he took office. The president is reportedly unhappy with the options he has received from the Pentagon for expanding the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Top military officers have also said they plan no moves to implement Mr. Trump’s transgender policy until they get a clear order from the White House. Several leaders have expressed support for transgender service members who are currently serving.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters the Pentagon would continue to study its approach on how transgender Americans could continue to serve in the armed forces.

“The policy is going to address whether or not transgenders can serve, under what conditions, what medical support they require, how much time would they be perhaps non-deployable, leaving others to pick up their share of everything,” the former four-star general told reporters during an impromptu briefing at the Pentagon.

When asked, point blank, whether the department was open to transgender individuals serving in the military, Mr. Mattis replied: “We are studying the issue.”

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