The uniformed leaders of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard all pushed back Wednesday against concerns that the services are becoming too “woke” in their renewed focus on diversity and inclusion in the ranks.

Capitol Hill Republicans, including Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, have in recent weeks expressed concern that the military is going too far in its efforts, and that some training on such subjects amounts to “anti-American indoctrination.”

The military is not alone in refocusing on such issues, as many American sectors have reassessed such matters following the murder of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in Minneapolis last year.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz were all asked the question at the beginning of a panel that was part of the annual WEST naval conference.

“It’s an assertion that isn’t really grounded in facts,” Gilday said in response to whether his service is “too woke.”

“We’re definitely focused on warfighting first, readiness first, but an essential element of that readiness has to do with people,” he said. “We know that diverse teams outperform those teams that are not as diverse.”

Talking about such issues, and “closing those gaps” while working to make the ranks look as much like America as possible, yields a stronger Navy, Gilday said.

“We know that esprit de corps, particularly in our small units and ships, is an incredibly important part of combat effectiveness,” he added.

Berger’s comments on the matter echoed those made to Congress by Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who last week disputed contentions that the military is too focused on such issues and that servicemembers need to be widely read on the different thoughts and theories circulating in American society, including divisive topics like critical race theory.

“Since we draw from that society…we want servicemembers to read widely,” Berger said. “We want them to actually think, not be programmed.”

“There are some places on earth where you’re not allowed to read (certain kinds of) books,” he said. “You’re only allowed to read this and espouse that. The great part of America is it’s not run that way.”

Schultz agreed with Gilday and Berger’s comments and called making the Coast Guard look like the nation it serves “a strategic imperative.”

“We’re working hard to be an inclusive organization,” he added.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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