2 Soldiers Suspected of Painting Racial Slurs, Lighting Fire in Fort Hood Barracks

The sun rises at the Vanessa Guillén gate before the arrival of a congressional delegation at Fort Hood, Texas.
The sun rises at the Vanessa Guillén gate before the arrival of a congressional delegation at Fort Hood, Texas, May 5, 2021. (Sgt. Evan Ruchotzke/U.S. Army photo)

Editor's Note: This story contains imagery that includes racist and profane language.

Two soldiers are suspected of lighting fires and spray-painting racial slurs and a penis on the walls of a Fort Hood barracks over the weekend, Military.com has learned.

Firefighters were dispatched to the barracks at the Texas base at 1 a.m. Saturday and extinguished the flames. The barracks sustained minimal damage and was evacuated without incident, a spokesperson said in a press release, which was published after officials became aware Military.com was pursuing this story.

The soldiers apparently spray-painted at least three walls with the N-word, according to photos reviewed by Military.com. They also painted a penis in the laundry room where a fire was set to a washing machine and dryer. Fort Hood officials are withholding the names and units of the two suspects, which is relatively common until soldiers are formally charged.

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"The actions of these persons of interest are not in keeping with Army values," Tom Rheinlander, the Fort Hood public affairs director, said in a statement to Military.com.

A photo of racist language on the wall of a Fort Hood barracks.
A photo of racist language on the wall of a Fort Hood barracks allegedly painted on the weekend of April 22-23, 2023. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army WTF! Moments)

An investigation of the incident is ongoing, and Fort Hood is working with the Army Criminal Investigation Division and the Department of the Army to see whether the Uniform Code of Military Justice or federal law were violated, Rheinlander said.

The motivations of those who painted the slurs and set the fire were not immediately known.

The apparent vandalism at Fort Hood echoes another recent incident at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. Officials at that base are investigating graffiti left earlier this month on base housing that included swastikas and a racial slur.

Both incidents have the hallmarks of white supremacist activity, which is on the rise across the U.S. in recent years.

The military has been struggling with how to eliminate extremism, including white supremacy, in the ranks. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered an independent review that resulted in new policies aimed at combating extremism and a service-wide stand-down in 2021, though many units did not participate in any meaningful way, service members have reported. The Army has not made any significant changes to how it identifies or treats radicalization among soldiers.

In September, the FBI arrested Spc. Killian Ryan, a paratrooper who was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, amid allegations he lied in his background check to obtain his security clearance. Ryan made multiple references to Nazism and white supremacy in his social media, claiming he enlisted to become proficient at killing Black people, according to court records.

There is no evidence service members and veterans are more likely to be radicalized. But they are sought out and actively recruited by extremist groups, such as white supremacists. Experts say those with military experience are sought out by those groups given their experience in military tactics as well as the societal respect they engender.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

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