Partial photo of a person in the military wearing a hijab, in an article about the case by LTC Allen West for the Old School Patriot.

Uniformity vs. Conformity

In Faith, Front Page, Military by Allen West

One of the questions I am often asked is if I miss the Army. I always respond that I miss being with Soldiers, or Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. We were unified by one simple thing: an oath. It is an oath that we all take to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. We all wear a uniform that separates us from others, but it binds us together. That uniformity we have in the military is not about being robotic, but being part of a team.

These teams were founded in June (Army), October (Navy), and November (Marines) of 1775 before there was the United States of America, July 4, 1776. These fighting forces were created long before there was a constitution, September 17, 1787. The uniformity of these teams centers around a basic premise: “service above self.”

When an individual joins those uniformed teams that serve our Constitutional Republic, they conform to this team, this organization, this fighting force and they take on a new name: Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, or Coast Guardsman. It is not about surrendering yourself, it is about recognizing that you are part of a long line of men and women who have been willing to make the last full measure of devotion to principles, a Nation, a code of honor that is greater than your respective individuality.

See, in conforming to the uniformity of our military you gain strength, you are made greater. But, something has happened in our military where individuals are placing their respective personal beliefs over the uniformity of the military. Instead, they seek to force the military to conform to them, and that is what is causing issues for our forces.

The US Military sets the standard of personal excellence in our society. It is, in and of itself, a discriminatory organization, not a participatory one. In other words, there are rules, regulations, and standards that are far and above civilian society, and for good reason. These teams are not just about scoring points, but victory. These teams do not have a profit and loss statement, they measure success in loss of lives. These teams focus on what binds them together, not the identity politics that have created a balkanized America.

And it is against that perspective, backdrop, that I will opine about what is happening in my Army at Ft. Carson, Colorado, home of the US Fourth Infantry Division, in which I served in combat as a Battalion Commander.

As reported by the Army Times:

“A Fort Carson, Colorado, brigade commander has found no issue with the way a command sergeant major attempted to enforce hair regulations with a Muslim soldier earlier this month, according to a Friday statement to Army Times. Now her attorney is considering filing a federal lawsuit.

Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos met with Col. David Zinn, who leads 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to discuss her equal opportunity complaint on Thursday, her attorney told Army Times, hours after 704th Brigade Support Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Kerstin Montoya again accused Valdovinos of wearing her hair down underneath her hijab.

“A commander’s inquiry found allegations against a senior non-commissioned officer were unsubstantiated regarding discriminating against Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos,” Zinn said in the statement.

“The inquiry concluded that the senior noncommissioned officer acted appropriately by enforcing the proper wear of the hijab, in compliance with Army regulations.” 

But she has in the past and continues to tie her hair up in a bun underneath the head covering, she said in a Thursday email, and now feels that her senior enlisted leader is targeting her. 

“This is an absolutely quintessential example of some of the worst anti-Muslim bigotry, prejudice and harassment that we have seen,” Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which represents Valdovinos, told Army Times on Friday.

“That’s because it’s so blatant.”

Having exhausted her administrative remedies, he added, MRFF is considering filing a federal lawsuit on her behalf, in light of the “hostile work environment” her command as created.

Valdovinos filed the complaint after a March 6 incident in which Montoya pulled her aside, ordering her to remove her hijab ― for which she has a religious accommodation waiver ― to verify her hair was in regulation.

On March 21, she said, the same CSM, in the presence their paralegal, took her aside and again accused her of being out of regs.”

First of all, I thank SGT Cesilia Valdovinos for taking the oath to our Constitution, and her willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our liberties, rights, and freedoms.

But, let me begin in my assessment of this case with Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and oxymoronic title for this organization, emphasis on moron. Weinstein is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, but spends his time attacking the Judeo-Christian faith of US servicemembers.

It was Weinstein who publicly criticized a Senior Air Force Commander, General, fighter pilot, who spoke of his faith while in uniform at a National Prayer Day event. Weinstein accused the General of sedition and recommended he be punished by court-martial. Weinstein has been instrumental in forcing the removal of any Judeo-Christian references, even at memorials in remembrance of our fallen. So, to have the involvement of Mikey Weinstein, in this case, is dishonest, disingenuous, and hypocritical.

But what has happened is that the military leadership has empowered Weinstein and his absurd actions and behaviors to impact our Armed Forces, all for his own personal agenda.

The real issue at heart comes down to religious accommodations. Funny, a young Marine enlisted female was punished for openly displaying Bible verses in her workspace, and refusing to take them down. We have had chaplains, Christians, punished for their religious beliefs, most recently an Army Chaplain who recused himself from a marriage retreat to accommodate a same-sex couple at Ft. Bragg, NC. They claimed discrimination because he didn’t do their marriage encounter seminar. The Navy attempted to severely punish a chaplain because he was counseling troops based upon his faith, Judeo-Christian. So, can someone explain religious accommodation, if it is not practiced consistently?

Serving in our military is not a right, it is not a grand participation trophy that everyone can have. When we start to make “accommodations” to appease each respective group, then we lose that sense of uniformity. Then, the military ends up conforming more to culture and society, rather than adhering to its standards.

Now, of course, there are detractors who will say what is the difference between this and President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 that desegregated our military? It’s simple: it set the stage to revoke the racist belief of “separate but equal,” just as we fully integrated our Service Academies.

Yes, we have freedom of religion in America, but our military is based upon a principle of uniformity, and once you begin to break down that which binds and creates a common denominator, then you incur these issues.

There is no restriction on Muslims or Sikhs serving in our military, but our military should not be about cultural or distinct accommodations. Again, you do not have to serve, but if you are willing, then you surrender something in order to gain something greater. There are no restrictions stating that the hijab cannot be worn when not in uniform . . . but the word uniform means uniformity. And, no, I did not agree with the Army seeking to make accommodations for certain black female hairstyles.

Yes, I miss my Army. There’s nothing like putting on that uniform every day for 22 years of my life . . . like my dad, older brother, and now my nephew.

What I do not miss is the Mickey Mouse bureaucratic bovine excrement that is focused on conforming our military to society and not the opposite. I am a Soldier for life. There is a reason why I stay clean-shaven, don a close “high and tight” haircut, and wake up six days a week to do Army PT.

It is because I conformed to a way of life, service, sacrifice, and commitment. I wear a running shirt that says “Army Made” and that is because the uniformity conformed me into that which I am today, and always shall be . . .

A Guardian of the Republic.

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