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Air Force Investigating Racist Graffiti Found at Academy Prep School

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, addresses racial slurs recently found at the Academy Preparatory School with Academy cadets, staff and faculty, Sept. 28 2017. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, addresses racial slurs recently found at the Academy Preparatory School with Academy cadets, staff and faculty, Sept. 28 2017. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Air Force officials are investigating the use of racial slurs written on a dormitory white board at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School.

The words "go home n-----" were among the racist language found Monday on the message boards of five African American cadet candidates at the prep school, which sits on the the Air Force Academy grounds in Colorado Spring, Colo.

"The Academy's Security Forces are looking into the matter," Academy Spokesman Lt. Col. Timothy Herritage said in a statement to Military.com on Thursday. "We're unable to release any additional information at this time due to the ongoing investigation."

Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria condemned the actions, emphasizing there "is absolutely no place in our Air Force for racism."

"It's not who we are, nor will we tolerate it in any shape or fashion," he said in a statement.

Silveria, the former deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, recently replaced Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson in the role.

The prep school each year takes in approximately 240 students between 17 and 22 years old, according to its website. Classes start in late July, with a 10-month curriculum that focuses on four core areas: academics, military, athletics and character, the website says.

Silveria, who canceled a trip to deal with the incident, has directed the commander of the prep school, Col. Jackie Breeden, to address students amid the investigation, according to emails obtained by the Facebook group, Air Force amn/nco/snco, which is popular within the Air Force but isn't officially run by the service.

In an email to academy leaders, Silveria said Breeden has addressed students and has talked to the school's chief diversity officer about beginning small group discussions with cadet candidates.

Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the service at the Pentagon, on Thursday said, "Like in every other corner of the U.S. Air Force, the Air Force Academy strives to create a climate of dignity and respect for all."

The incident quickly found its way onto social media, gaining the attention of lawmakers.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington and a ranking House Services Committee members called for swift action.

"The Air Force needs to investigate this incident thoroughly and take appropriate action," he said. "Incidents like these, even if they are performed by a single individual, offend our moral sensibilities and they can undermine the morale of service members and cadets."

Silveria said "the area of dignity and respect is my red line."

"Let me be clear, it won't be crossed without significant repercussions," he said. "We are stronger when we take into account the views of those with different backgrounds and life experiences."

Silveria added, "Those who don't understand that are behind the power curve and better catch up."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.