Top US military leaders have raised questions about the Pentagon’s use of so-called “woke” training, prompting debate about the appropriateness and effectiveness of the training.
General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that he was not sure what the word “woke” means. “But I would tell you that the military I see is a military that is exceptionally strong, it’s powerful, it’s ready,” Milley declared. “In fact, our readiness rate is — the way we measure readiness is better now than they’ve been in years. This military is a lot of things, but woke it is not. So, I take exception to that.”
In June 2021, Milley defended the reading of Critical Race Theory (CRT) texts by the US military, asserting, “I’ve read Mao Tse-Tung; I’ve read Karl Marx; I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist.” Milley claimed he “personally” found it “offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, non-commissioned officers, of being ‘woke’ because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”
It was recently reported that Air Force cadets had been instructed not to use gender-specific terms like “Mom” or “Dad” and to replace such terms with words such as “parent” or “caregiver.” That instruction was featured at the Air Force Academy in Colorado as part of cadets’ “Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) training.”
At a Senate hearing in July 2021, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) shared whistleblower complaints that military members have sent about extremism and diversity training. Cotton said the military members had reported that military history training was replaced with mandatory training on police brutality, white privilege, and systemic racism, being instructed that the “U.S. Special Operations community is racist,” a general officer telling an Army officer that “the entire U.S. Army is racist,” and more.
The ongoing debate about “woke” training in the US military raises questions about the effectiveness and appropriateness of training military personnel about matters of race and politics. Some, including Milley, maintain that the training is not appropriate and does not make the military stronger. Others, however, contend that training military personnel about such matters is necessary for national security and to ensure an inclusive culture within the military. Time will tell what the ultimate outcome of the debate will be.