US Forces Korea Announces Survey to Name New Campaign Against Racism

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Troops display flags during a Memorial Day ceremony in South Korea
Troops display flags during a Memorial Day ceremony in South Korea. Photo via USFK.mil

U.S. troops stationed in South Korea will get to choose from four options to name the command's new diversity campaign, intended to promote unity and eradicate racism in the ranks.

The choices in the troop survey include "Unity in the Community," "USFK: Strength thru Diversity," "We Are One USFK," and "Unity In Diversity."

Read more: US Soldier Charged with Planning Deadly Ambush on His Army Unit, DOJ Says

The survey, announced Sunday in a USFK Twitter post, will last through Thursday, the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the command said.

The survey is part of the aggressive steps taken by Army Gen. Robert Abrams -- who wears three hats as head of USFK, United Nations Command and Combined Forces Command -- in line with the Pentagon's guidance on diversity.

Abrams has banned Confederate flags, bumper stickers and other paraphernalia on base while permitting on-base candlelight vigils in solidarity with racial injustice protests stateside in response to the May 25 death of Floyd while in police custody.

One vigil was held June 4 at Osan Air Base and a second June 11 at Camp Humphreys. Many of the troops and family members who took part wore "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts and took a knee for nearly nine minutes, matching the time that a white police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck.

Army Col. Tindeman Penland, a USFK judge advocate general, used a question-and-answer format in released guidance to address what might be most on the minds of USFK service members in terms of protests and social media postings.

"Can I go on Facebook or Twitter and make a statement [including 'liking' or forwarding a post] regarding current issues, such as Black Lives Matter or urging a government take official action against someone who has committed a race-based crime?"

Penland answered: "Yes. However, service members should avoid publishing anything which could reasonably be viewed as soliciting votes for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause."

"A group of friends wants to hold a memorial event for someone killed by police in the United States? May we do so on a USFK installation?"

Penland answered: "It depends. Generally speaking, military installations are not public forums, so the use of those facilities for non-military purposes may be subject to an installation commander's approval."

He added, "These activities are subject to reasonable time, place, or manner conditions established by the approving commander."

He referred to Defense Department directive 1325.06 on "handling dissident activities and protest activities among members of the Armed Forces."

A service member's "right of expression should be preserved to the maximum extent possible," the directive states. But "No commander should be indifferent to conduct that, if allowed to proceed unchecked, would destroy the effectiveness of his or her unit."

"The proper balancing of these interests depends largely upon the calm and prudent judgment of the responsible commander," the directive states.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Related: US Forces Korea Permits Racial Injustice Protests on Bases

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