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Letter from Australian Army Warrant Officer to American Mil Officers

Combining religion and military life is inherently dangerous, and all steps should be taken to ensure the two are not conflated, either by those on the inside, or those without … Via the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and doomed-to-hell Chris Rodda and Mikey Weinstein

Dear General Gould, Colonel Brantingham, and Colonel Bruno,

My name is *** *******. I am a Warrant Officer class 2 in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps of the Australian Army. I am pleased to say that I have had the distinction to work as a liaison with US military forces, including the USAF, on my active deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. On a more personal note, both my parents were Royal Australian Air Force officers, and some of my earliest memories are of my experiences at AFB Langley, Virginia, where my father was seconded for 3 years as part of the RAAF/USAF medical officer exchange program that was conducted in the ’80s and ’90s. I have returned to the US on several occasions, and maintain close continuing friendships with many of my American service friends. I am also a practicing, observant Catholic. I hope this establishes my bona fides somewhat. I am not some anti-military, anti-American, nor anti-religious lefty, keen to take any opportunity to take a swipe at the USA, her military, nor religion in general, though I am sure by now you will have had several letters from such people.

I am writing to you to voice my concerns about the ongoing issues taking place at the United States Air Force Academy, in relation to the so called “Cadets for Christ” ministry. I have followed the issue through various news services, and been involved in several discussions about it with my friends in the American military, as I am always interested in current military events and trends. I readily acknowledge that I am not an USAF member, nor am I a US citizen. But as a sincere friend of your country and military, and as the member of one of your closest military allies, I feel it is important to convey that this issue is concerning not just to USAFA cadets and their families, nor just the wider US citizenry. The issue is attracting international attention, and, worse, criticism. The apparent trend among the US military, and particularly her officers, to see the service as a vehicle for their own brand of fundamentalist evangelism is deeply worrying to me. As you are well aware, our countries are facing a number of threats that demonise us as “crusaders”, and the rhetoric from people within the military determined to portray themselves as “soldiers of Christ” is hardly helpful when trying to win hearts and minds. Further, as someone who spends his days managing the intricate minutiae of intra-unit dynamics and relationships, I can tell you first hand that soldiers are willing to accept anyone with any beliefs pretty much, so long as they don’t try to push an agenda on those around them. One of the fastest ways to lose a soldier’s respect is to give the impression that you have some agenda other than the soldier’s welfare and unit effectiveness foremost in mind. Pushing religious evangelism on others is a perfect example of the sort of thing I am talking about. This is a big picture point of view from a senior enlisted man. Officers need to be adaptive, proactive and self reliant. These are not traits that seem to be being promoted in the current religious environment that appears to be endemic at the USAFA. Not to mention that we all need to remain mission focused. My religion is a very important part of my life. However, I do not let it interfere with my professional attitude and deportment. As one of the guys on the ground, very much downrange of USAF aircraft flying combat missions, let me be extremely clear that the thought of USAF pilots, and their C3 elements, not being supremely focused on the task at hand, is very worrying, to both me and my subordinates. It is difficult for me to reassure my juniors about the job you guys are doing if I don’t believe it myself, and suffice to say, the current exclusive religious environment that seems to be spreading in the US military seems very likely to be distracting, leaving American service personnel distracted from their tasks enough to put our lives in danger.

To the small picture, regarding CFC, cadet Baas, and similar issues to do with enforced prayer meetings and a culture of bullying of non Christians by Christians at the USAFA, I have to say, I am shocked at the stories coming out. If institutions like the USAF and its academy can be home to such bullying, mistreatment and downright cult recruitment, what hope is there for the rest of us? As the spearhead of all those fighting for Democracy, Freedom, and, what we in Australia would call “a fair go”, the USAF must maintain an unimpeachable reputation. If religious exclusion, compulsory fundamentalism and bullying of those who don’t share the “correct” beliefs is accepted within the USAFA, then just what is it we are fighting for? Are these not precisely the traits of those we have been fighting these past 9 years? We hold ourselves to a higher standard, because we are the good guys, right? If nothing distinguishes us from those we are fighting beyond uniforms and tribal affiliation, we may all as well hand our uniforms back to the Q-store and admit the terrorists have won.

I hope that this little letter has given a useful and new dimension to your considerations, and to confirm that people beyond the walls of the USAFA are looking on with interest and concern. I am sure you have a great deal to consider relating to this matter, and my voice is just one among many. However, with what little weight my voice does carry, I implore you, stop the apparent spread of religious fundamentalism and evangelism in the USAFA. People must be free to pursue their religion as they see fit. But combining religion and military life is inherently dangerous, and all steps should be taken to ensure the two are not conflated, either by those on the inside, or those without.

Thank you for your time.

 WO2 *** ******* RAAC (AST Army)

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