Serving in Afghanistan is a dangerous duty for troops, but the recently released details of one soldier’s experience suggest the battle is even harder for service men and women of color.
Yesterday, Reuters broke the story of Specialist Adam Jarrell. The only African-American in his unit of New Mexico Army National Guard, Jarrell says that he was systematically targeted and discriminated against while serving in Afghanistan in 2009.
Jarrell says the harassment began after her reported the physical abuse of two soldiers by an officer. Despite military rules meant to keep complaints anonymous, the accused officer was notified about Jarrell’s complaints.
After that, Jarrell said he was subjected to increasing torment, including threats of physical violence and racial slurs. The abuse culminated in a noose hanging outside his barracks door, he said.
“That was the last straw,” he said.
When he reported the incidents to his commanding officers, they ignored the issue and wrote him up for jumping the chain of command, even though harassment claims are not subject to those rules, Jarrell said.
The military response to Jarrell’s harassment has been slow at best, with New Mexico National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Jamison Herrera saying that it was looking into it and could not say when they would be able to respond.
Speaking on Jarrell’s complaint, Peter Simonson, Executive Director of the American Ciivl Liberties Union’s New Mexico branch said:
“No one should suffer the kind of racial hatred Specialist Jarrell experienced, least of all someone who is on the front lines of battle. Our military is supposed to maintain a professional, disciplined fighting force. People’s lives depend on it. Racism and racially motivated threats have no place in our state’s National Guard units.”
While racism in the military is not new news, it is disheartening to know that Jarrell’s unjust treatment was ignored. In this case, it seems the chain of command did more to stifle liberties than help to enforce them. There is a sad irony in the fact that troops of color are facing discrimination from soldiers wearing the same uniform and fighting to protect the same freedoms.
What’s your take on Jarrell’s experience? Will having his story in press generate enough public pressure to force the military to respond? Tell us what you think- weigh in Clutchettes and gents!