Army Unit's 'Racial Thursdays' Investigated
Racial slur 'tradition' reportedly encouraged to 'build morale and camaraderie'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2015 11:22 AM CDT
In this Nov. 13, 2014, file photo, members of the US Army attend a military exercise at the Gaiziunu Training Range in Lithuania.   (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, file)

(Newser) – Playing "Taps" on a well-worn bugle, the emotional recitation of "A Soldier's Creed," and calling each other racial slurs one day per week: all time-honored customs in the US Army? That last practice is, at least in one platoon, according to a black staff sergeant who tells the Army Times that he's filed an equal-opportunity complaint against his platoon leader at Alaska's Fort Wainwright for "[encouraging] 'Racial Thursdays' as a way to build morale and camaraderie," the Times notes. The soldier from the 2nd Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment tells the newspaper that although epithets were never hurled his way, he was told upon arrival that the special day was a "tradition" in which soldiers "can say any racist remark you want without any consequences." "It's degrading to the soldiers," the staff sergeant says. "We've had soldiers almost fight over the crap that's going on here."

A junior enlisted soldier anonymously backs up the NCO's claim, telling the Times that "you didn't have to participate, but they'd remind you." He recalls a Latino soldier being called a "wetback" and "border jumper" before almost getting into a scuffle when the others wouldn't stop. The Alaska unit is the same one in which 19-year-old Pvt. Danny Chen served before killing himself in 2011 after being deployed. Chen, who was Chinese-American, reportedly had rocks thrown at him and was called names like "Dragon Lady" and "Egg Roll" in the weeks before his death in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2012. A spokesman for the Alaska unit tells the Army Times an investigation into the recent claims is underway and that "there is absolutely no connection between this current investigation and the case of Pvt. Danny Chen. Treating all soldiers with dignity and respect is something this command takes extremely seriously." (Prince Harry once got into hot water with the UK military for using a racial slur.)