An Air Force civilian employee who allegedly threatened to take part in overthrowing the government was barred from his workplace and may face further repercussions, a service spokesman confirmed March 26.
The unnamed man, who the Air Force said claims to be a member of the far-right Proud Boys, is assigned to an Air Force Materiel Command installation.
“The employee is currently barred from entering the installation where he is employed for supporting violent behavior against the U.S. government,” command spokesperson Derek Kaufman told Air Force Times.
Kaufman declined to say whether the Air Force has launched a formal investigation into his conduct or if the person is still employed.
“In order to protect the employee’s privacy as well as the integrity of the administrative process associated with possible employment actions, we are not naming the installation at this time,” he said.
AFMC is a main tenant at eight bases: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where command headquarters is located; Arnold AFB, Tenn.; Edwards AFB, Calif.; Eglin AFB, Fla; Hanscom AFB, Mass.; Hill AFB, Utah; Robins AFB, Ga.; and Tinker AFB, Okla.
The command employs about 89,000 people and manages a $60 billion budget spanning base support, research and development, weapons testing, system maintenance, and more across the Air Force inventory.
The situation comes as the Pentagon tries to grasp how many troops hold radical political or ideological views that may pose a threat to their fellow service members, other Americans or the government in the wake of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in January. Current and former military members were among the crowd that day, prompting military leaders to take a harder look at extremism in their ranks.
As of March 19, at least 19 leaders, members or associates of the neo-fascist Proud Boys faced federal charges on offenses related to the Jan. 6 riots, according to the Associated Press.
Membership in an organization like the Proud Boys is not expressly banned under Pentagon rules, but activities like advocating violence, committing crimes in line with an anti-government or racist ideology, or recruiting others for those purposes would cross the line into unacceptable extremist behavior, according to the Air Force.
The AFMC case came to light in a set of slides the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Office created to guide units through discussions of what constitutes extremism and how to handle it.
The eight-page slideshow, titled “Identifying and Addressing Impermissible Behavior,” references other widely publicized cases of airmen active in extremist and white supremacist circles, but also included a description of a previously unknown civilian employee engaged in impermissable behavior.
“Civilian employee SUBJECT made statements declaring he was a member of ‘Proud Boys.’ SUBJECT additionally threatened to overthrow government and stated he would be part of civil war following 6 Jan 21 events at the Capitol Building. ... AFMC issued a debarment order against civilian employee SUBJECT,” according to the presentation, dated Feb. 17.
When asked about the AFMC case on March 18, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said it was not a real situation.
“They are sample cases developed to highlight different [Defense Department/Air Force Instruction] references,” she said. “They were made up scenarios, but the same rule sets may apply to real-world cases.”
One of the other scenarios appeared to highlight former Technical Sgt. Cory Reeves, who was demoted and discharged from the Air Force in 2020 over active participation in the white nationalist group Identity Evropa. Another appears to discuss Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, an airman with alleged ties to the far-right, anti-government “boogaloo movement” who was charged with murder and attempted murder last summer.
Some argue the military is cracking down on conservative viewpoints in the wake of the far-right Capitol riots, which occurred as Congress was certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Ramón “CZ” Colón-López, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently stressed that far-left and far-right groups are equally off-limits. People should not confuse Americans exercising their right to peaceful protest with those who choose violence, he said.
“If it’s an organization that is actually imposing harm, threat, destruction, criminal activity and so on, then we don’t condone that behavior,” Colón-López said, according to Military.com. “We’re focusing on letting people know exactly what the oath tells us to do when it comes to obeying lawful orders, remaining apolitical and basically being good stewards of society.”
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.