Inside the Woke Air Force
Nearly two decades ago, I left my hometown for Lackland Air Force Base. Every enlisted airman since 1968 has completed Basic Military Training at this historic base in the Alamo City. First, trainees work to graduate from being a “rainbow,” referring to the mixed colors of their civilian clothing, which involves getting a free haircut, getting new uniforms, and learning how to move in a formation. Trainees are further unified by reminders from military training instructors that they are no longer “back on the block,” and from here on out, they “all bleed blue!”
Trainees from across America are honed into a team of airmen. The military has always excelled at forming our diverse citizenry into a unified force — it embraced “E pluribus unum.” However, the U.S. Air Force is currently indoctrinating airmen in neo-Marxist ideology and creating activists thorough its Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE) programs.
Some will push back and claim that DIE is simply about being inclusive of diverse viewpoints, and if this were the case, there would be little controversy. Yet when senior leaders discuss diversity, as in DIE, the word has a neo-Marxist meaning. Herbert Marcuse in his 1969 “Essay on Liberation“ stated the following: “the familiar (used and abused) vocabulary of freedom, justice, and equality could thus obtain not only new meaning but also new reality,” with a “methodical subversion of the linguistic of the Establishment.” Today, diversity as part of DIE is in line with Marcuse’s subversive definition, which is used in Critical Theory and its offspring, intersectionality.
Critical Theory and intersectionality spawned out of Marxist scholarship and have grown into legal studies, history, education, social sciences, and military studies. It undergirds identity politics, which has been institutionalized into the Air Force through Barrier Analysis Working Groups, or BAWGs. The Air Force has established seven BAWGs:
- BEST – Black Employment Strategy Team
- DAT – Disability Action Team
- HEAT – Hispanic Empowerment Action Team
- INET – Indigenous Nations Equality Team
- LIT – LGBTQ+ Initiative Team
- PACT – Pacific Islander Asian-American Community Team
- WIT – Women’s Initiatives Team
Through BAWGs, the Air Force has established political advocacy groups to advise the chain of command and make recommendations regarding equity and inclusion. Examples are optional pronouns in an airman’s official signature block or that males who identify as female can now complete the women’s Physical Fitness Assessment (ref. attachment 5). The force is also subjected to regular stand-downs and “bridge-chats.”
The 2021 extremism stand-down day is a good example of these sessions. Not once did they mention Islamic extremism or how support for the Marxist movement Black Lives Matter is incompatible with military service. Nor did the stand-down facilitators mention the airman in Utah who was caught in his military-issued gas mask throwing Molotov cocktails at a police car during a BLM riot.
During bridge-chats, airmen are organized into small groups to “lean in” and discuss “hard topics” such as race, sexuality, unconscious bias, microaggressions, and social-emotional learning. These groups, however well intentioned by some, are not talks meant to foster inclusion, but are “consciousness-raising” sessions.
In the last century, Marxists such as Marcuse sought to understand where Marx’s theory went wrong. The urban proletariat were supposed to naturally overthrow their bourgeois oppressors, but the revolution did not naturally develop — it had to be enticed. This led Marcuse and others to develop the idea of “false consciousness”: put simply, people raised in oppression are not aware they are oppressed. Marginalized groups had to be shown they are oppressed through a process such as Paulo Freire’s conscientization, enabling them to develop a critical awareness and see through the false consciousness.
The result of conscientization is activism, which is seen from the highest levels of Air Force leadership. For example, during the 2022 Air Force DEIA Conference, Secretary Kendall recommended reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist and promoted Kendi’s idea that “it’s not enough to just not be racist, but you must be antiracist.” Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, the former commander of Air Education and Training Command, stated that the “death of George Floyd” has “fundamentally changed the Air Force,” and Air Force leaders have been charged by the chief of staff of the Air Force to “engage.”
Activism has also been institutionalized into foundational documents, such as the Air Force’s Core Values. The May 2022 edition of the “little blue book” now includes calls to activism. In the section titled “CORE VALUES — THE WHY,” airmen are admonished to “accept accountability and practice justice,” and furthermore that “it is our obligation to understand and be advocates of the ethical demands these values require.” In the section on “SERVICE BEFORE SELF,” airmen are instructed to “recognize and root out prejudices, biases, and stereotypes ... and honor the Air Force and others by following our words with actions.”
It is a longstanding tradition for the military to “remain politically neutral and divorced from partisan politics,” yet now Air Force leaders are stating that airmen have an obligation to practice justice and be advocates. Over the last three years, we have seen the changes publicly.
In 2020, General Brown, in his former position as commander of Pacific Air Forces, released an official video where he states he is “full of emotion” and publicly shared his opinion about George Floyd’s death and alludes to “the many African-Americans that have shared the same fate.”
In 2023, Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt disparaged laws legally passed by millions of citizens at the state level as “anti-LBGTQ+” and a “dangerous trend.” She went on to share that she would make manning decisions, in part, if a family could be “denied critical healthcare due to the laws of that state,” referring to the restriction of surgeries and hormones to make minors look like members of the opposite sex in states such as Texas.
Also in 2023, Secretary Kendall undermined the will of American citizens and their state laws meant to protect children from abortion by implementing a policy to “ensure” that airmen and their families “can access reproductive health care regardless of where they are stationed.”
There has also been a regression with DIE. For example, the “first” all-female flight over the 2023 Super Bowl is a step back, as the WASPs already fought for true inclusion to fly alongside their brothers. Or consider the “first” all-black heritage flight compared to the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Why are we celebrating the resegregation of our formations? Wouldn’t true diversity and inclusion be represented in a flight with a mixed-race/sex crew? Isn’t this something we do every day in the Air Force, and have been doing for decades?
Yes, we have! However, DIE isn’t about diversity; it’s about indoctrinating airmen into neo-Marxist ideology and creating activists. The Air Force needs to disband DIE programs and get back to building true unity within the force. It needs to focus on what airmen have in common — our oath, the Constitution, and love of country — not on what makes us different. Let’s get back to “one team, one fight!”
Josh Culper (a pseudonym) is an Air Force officer. Josh is remaining anonymous after seeing how Lt. Col. Matt Lohmeier was treated for engaging in wrongthink.
Image via Picryl.