Copyright by John T. Reed

Below is a series of emails I received from a black former U.S. soldier. It is important because the Army denies this and as a white guy, I am prohibited from talking about it or what I say is discounted because I’m white. Young people thinking of going ino teh U.S. military need to know about this becaues it is a reason why a lot of them get out earlier than they planned. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Better you find out beforehand and not go in to begin with.

Hello John, my name is [redacted] and first off, I want to say Thank You for your time in the U.S. Army serving as an officer. I also want to commend to you how well your website is and your quality opinions about your experiences in the U.S. Army.

If you have time to reply, I would greatly appreciate it. If not, I totally understand that you're a busy man.

I was an enlisted member from 1991-to-1999. Like many, I enlisted due to a bit of personal crisis on trying to improve my career.

To make things brief, I made it up to Specialist (E4) in the U.S. Army.

In a way on how you had obstacles as an officer, I had a few of my own. I don't want to turn this discussion into a race thing, but I was in a unit that was predominantly black when I was stationed in Panama.

The things that I saw from my experience was extremely appalling. Being a man of color myself, I witnessed as well as many other soldiers at the company I was stationed at a sort of reverse racism. When a detail had to be done or performed on the premises of our company, our 1st. Sgt. would select mostly a group of white enlisted members to pick up trash that was randomly scattered on the lawn. After two months, it never took a genius to discover a pattern. There would be some black, and Hispanic soldiers that would be selected in odd details at times (myself included). But the only reason as to why we were selected was because we were either quiet, to ourselves, or not completely in line with the things that were going on. I had a close friend (white) who was constantly reprimanded by our superiors for a lot of nonsense. I would often assure him that you got to keep your head high because we're dealing with a racist chain-of-command that likes putting many of the white soldiers down.

One soldier within our company was kicked out of the Army because of adultery. The hypocrisy about that was that many of our superiors within our chain-of-command was participating in the practice as well!!! And to no surprise, the soldier kicked out was (white).

Now you may ask me, those are strong accusations, but I and a lot of people knew and saw what was going on at that time. And of course, it's was extremely hard to prove these accusations simply because most racial problems are mostly targeted to people whom are white.

At one discussion in the Day Room inside our company, our Platoon Sergeant was mouthing off on how the white man was responsible for all of the oppression that existed throughout the history of our country. An Army buddy of mine (white) simply walked out of the room. When one of his superiors (do I have to explain his background) grabbed him from behind and told him: "Where are you going??" My buddy simply responded: "I don't have to listen to that crap." He was absolutely right! But, he was vilified for walking out when our Platoon Sgt. decided to speak like a so-called activist. While our Team Leader idly observed as if there were no problems. Pathetic. There are many more things that were going on there, but I just wanted to give you a snippet of the things I experienced.

You being a Ranger, I have a lot of tremendous respect for you sir. Not only because of you completing and passing the school, but on how you also made a point to not wear the tab. I'm sure you most likely pissed off a lot of your superiors with that act of defiance.

On the other hand, I scored 290 and above practically every single time I took my PT Test. My Drill Sergeant once told me that if I score extremely high on PT, you will demonstrate to your superiors that you are a committed and dedicated soldier. I highly respected those words from him. He respected me simply because I was one of three members to score extremely high in his class when it was time to test out for PT.

Did scoring high in PT translate to success for me? Absolutely not at the Signal Battalion in Panama. I chose not to wear the PT Excellence Tab simply because in my opinion, it did not impress me to sew that patch on my PT Uniform, and I was not a show-off and wanted to prove to my comrades that I was a team player. I also knew that being fit is still only part of being a soldier, albeit, it may be an extremely important element of one. I personally understood that I had much to learn on being proficient within the MOS I was going to specialize in during field exercises.

Eventually when it was discovered that I was highly fit, my section Sergeant would not allow me to do PT on my own simply stated in his belief that I needed supervision (He was in terrible shape for an NCO; a Creampuff). I said to myself, WTF? I've been fit on my own, I have proven that, the Commander's policy was that all soldiers whom performed 290 and above were granted to do PT on their own if they wanted to except for Company and Battalion runs. I kept pressing the matter to him on "What was the problem? His cowardly remark was "That policy is only granted to E5 and above." When the Commander eventually discovered why I was not allowed to do PT on my own, I simply replied that I was told that I was not permitted because I was a junior enlisted soldier. My Captain was livid! Despite the majority of suck-up soldiers within our company, the Company Commander was a very stand-up leader. And in my opinion, he was also an excellent Commander. I often felt sorry for the bull crap he often had to endure from the Battalion and Brigade Commanders. He had to be in charge of a virtual hell-hole of personnel that only sucked-up to him and were totally fake. Despite the Commander, I was the only other soldier at that time whom was capable of scoring 290 and above in PT. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bragging about myself scoring high. I respect all and any soldier that is capable of scoring 200 points and above on their PT test. It shows commitment that you're fit-to-fight.

In the end, I had a reputation that I complained to the Commander about it and was not very welcome and respected by my superiors. Those things presented themselves by me constantly going out in the field, TDY missions, and other miscellaneous tasks. I didn't complain. Heck, I was a soldier, and my job was to be prepared to take orders and do what I was told. Nothing more or less. However, I started to understand and learn that my superiors were never all that motivated to train and go out in the field. I often said to myself, "Is this for real!!?? I thought that training is what we're constantly supposed to do. In fact, as I was leaving the Army, I had two superiors (NCOs) that decided to get circumcision surgery on their privates before the largest annual training exercise of the year in order to avoid going out in the field. I said to myself: Not to take anything away from many real officers and soldiers in the Army, but the majority of my unit was totally lazy and unmotivated. I hate to admit those things, but they were as true as I can explain it. In addition, At Ft. Huachuca, going back to the dreaded PT Test, after I once scored a 292 on my last PT Test, my 2nd. Lt. cheated and doctored her PT score from 279-to-293 and started bragging to our Company Commander that she had the highest PT score. And to top it all off, she was responsible for not allowing my test score to be official. Stating in her cowardly justification, your time in the Army is short anyway, your score doesn't matter anymore. In my opinion, she was a cheater, liar, and a total fake. And most of all, a sorry excuse for a leader. I had absolutely no respect for her.

Overall, I had ambitions of making E5 within 4-to-5 years. But those things were not meant to happen simply because I did not play ball with some of my superiors. I will never claim that I was all that. I was and I still am just a simple man. But I know that I was just as good or even better than some of the people that were able to control my monthly evaluation reports. Once it was clear that I was leaving the U.S. Army, all of a sudden, I became a Specialist promotable. That made me even more sick and disgusted.

Once again, I want to say thank you for your commitment while you served in the U.S Army. And I also want to extend my thanks to all service members as well who have served, are no longer with us, and currently serving anywhere, especially in Afghanistan.

You can definitely quote me if you want. Things like that should be known.

You are partially right if you believed that non-sense was eradicated since the early 70s. What I gathered from my personal experience, it subtly morphed into something else. In my opinion, while I was stationed in Panama at Fort Clayton (154th Sig. Bat.), the problems at my company from 1992-to-1994 was absolutely disgusting.

It's always hard to prove these things out-right, but I know as well as some of my other Army buddies knew what we saw at the company we were stationed at.

As I mentioned, a form of reverse racism was definitely present at my company. And it impacted quite a few people related to their job classifications, training, schools, awards, and most of all certain promotions.

These things did not exist at the battalion of course, just within my company that I learned to despise, but keep it all hidden to myself. A lot of soldiers felt the same way. I know they did. Most of us could not wait to PCS or ETS out of there.

As I mentioned, the racism I detected from the first few weeks I was stationed there was a form mild reverse racism. Our direct chain-of-command was mostly predominantly black. And as a private, I indeed opened my eyes a bit when a close friend of mine inside the company (A white friend of whom I keep in contact to this day) informed me of the things that were going on.

At first, I did not want to believe that these things existed. I just assumed that leadership was acting like a bit of typical hard-asses. But as I continued to observe things up to the first few months while there, I detected subtle patterns. Most people will discount accusations of racism in which people of color are burdening mostly white soldiers, but I know what I saw.

Some examples:

When it came to promotions, I had another friend (Puerto Rican) whom wanted to attend the E6 board for an opportunity to make Staff Sergeant. His superior, a black female Staff Sergeant would always make excuses for him that he either wasn't ready or that she could not afford to have him leave her command. I always believed that the US Army and the military sought out and promoted the best, the bright, and the soldiers that were hungry to make a difference. It was amazing how much of the true reality I discovered after basic and AIT. By the way, the Staff Sergeant despite her rank was definitely not in the best shape, she was selfish, and simply only thought of herself. Heck, it was almost impossible to prove those things because accusations like that of course will potentially be considered an act of insubordination towards the accuser. Which can have the worst effect on anyone's career.

My favorite example. A buddy of mine, Specialist Smith shared with me after he requested assistance of our 1st. Sgt. to have his wife and family transferred to Ft. Clayton from state-side. Spc. Smith had already settled into the company for more than two months. And asked our 1st Sgt. for help on getting his family eventually get situated on base. I don't know the details of his complications at that time. But the man did everything he was asked to do. Smith immediately went out in the field on major exercises after arriving and other things. And the response that our 1st. Sgt gave him according to Smith was: "I'll see what I can do." All while he was rolling up his eyes in a condescending manner and not even looking at my buddy. All the while, the 1st. Sgt. continued to procrastinate on the matter for an additional month. And not help the guy. It was as if Spc. Smith was some form of insignificant piece of crap to him. 1st. Sgt. Jackson's response towards Spc. Smith was like: Who is this guy to ask me for help?

That encounter eventually demoralized Spec. Smith. I mean, isn't the priority of a 1st. Sgt. is to take care of all of his soldiers? Being desperate for help, Spec. Smith eventually walked to the Battalion in order to ask for the Sgt. Major's help for his problems. Of course, the Sgt. Major asked him if he went through his chain-of-command. Which he obviously told him, Yes. Spec. Smith told the Sgt. Major in detail about how his 1st. Sgt. treated the matter.

The justice from this story was that, our Battalion Sgt. Major forced our 1st. Sgt. to write a detailed report. Not only to him, but to his soldiers as well, on how he was to continue serving the needs of his soldiers when they need him. That was justice at its best.

Of course, I being a man of color myself. I consider myself a simple individual. And I often either kept to myself or hung out with a few friends within my platoon and company. Obviously because a lot of my superiors most likely had difficulty trying to figure me out, and due to some of the festivities that I would not participate in, I was definitely not considered one of their favorites. Which was not much of a problem with me. Although, I already knew that I would have quite a few challenges being considered for promotion to Sergeant with the leadership that was above me. That was one of the few things that was slightly demoralizing for me while I served in the U.S. Army.

I may sound a bit bitter from my personal experience. I won't say that I was an outstanding soldier. But, I know that I was good enough to matter and make a difference while serving in the U.S. Army. And some of my buddies in the same Signal Battalion whom I had the honor of being friends with definitely deserved better. Despite all of the negative things mentioned. Some of the positive things that I will remember is from receiving a letter from Ft. Bragg considering me as a possible candidate to try out in Special Forces (MOS 18 Series). I had no idea how I could have possibly received recommendations from them. But it was obvious that someone was aware of some of my accomplishments. However, I was determined to go to college anyway and was prepared to move on from the U.S Army.

I apologize if this email is a bit wordy. I just wanted to share a few things in detail with you that were definitely going on at my company through my thoughts while there. Like yourself, I thought the U.S Army had a lot of the negative social issues such as mild forms of racism stamped out. I mean, I served in the early 90s. However, I experienced something that slightly surprised me. Reverse racism as I call it, it's still mild racism. I won't call it extreme. No one was violently doing anything to anyone. But subtle tactics as I saw them through most of my chain-of-command, it's all bad. And some of my friends whom were victims of it did not deserve such treatment. It's down-right disgusting.

Thank you for your time sir,


Here is an email I got from a West Point graduate:

Squadron Commander and Troop Commander who regularly referred to black soldiers as "Nigras" in meetings and assemblies. Same Squadron Commander ran 3 black officers out of the Unit and ruined their careers via their OERs (also referred to them, many times in my presence as his S-1, as "Nigras"). Was in the process of running out officer #4 until this gent filed an EEOC complaint--and suddenly he became this LTC's bestest buddy, was given charge of a specialty platoon over other, deserving folks, and was awarded several medals.

This LTC also had a problem with Jewish officers who did not wish to attend XMas parties--actually forced one to attend and to sing XMas carols. When the gent complained in private to the LTC afterwards, he was told to "shut the fuck up."

This LTC is now a [redacted] serving with the Joint Chiefs. [and is a West Point grad].

On the flipside, this same Captain's First Sergeant was the most racist black man I've ever encountered in my life. We all wondered how an E-8 who hated "honkies" and an O-3 who hated "Nigras" would get along. Never quite figured out how they spent 1.5 years in command together.

Newly-promoted to E-8, this 1st Sergeant discovered that one of a group of 3 black E-5s in the Troop had married the Caucasian sweetheart he had been dating since highschool.

In front of the entire duty formation , he looked right at the kid and told him, "how dare you step outside the Race by marrying a white honky bitch." No, I'm not kidding.

After this E-5's buddies held him back and he calmed down, he went to EEOC to file a complaint. A 3-month investigation ensued. Upon conclusion of same, it was adjudicated that "nothing had been done" contra to UCMJ and the E-8 was exonerated. Upon hearing so, he called another formation, stood in front of the Troop, flapped the E-8 stripes on his BDU collars, and told everyone, "I'm bulletproof, motherfuckers. Ain't nobody can touch me." Two years later, he made "below-the-zone" promotion to Sergeant Major.

An interesting piece of trivia: GEN John Pershing, [West Point Class of ] 1886, top commander in WWI. Did you know he was known throughout most of his career as "Black Jack Pershing?" The popular rumor was that he received this nickname for his "black temper," which was supposed to be pretty heinous.

That is not the case.

The fact was, he spent most of his early and mid career in command of all-black units.

When he returned to USMA as the Supe…, his asshole methodology of treating Cadets, coupled with the racism rife in the military, led the Corps to refer to him as "N-word Jack."

The NY newspapers picked up on this, but since, even then, they couldn't print the "N-word" for fear of reactions and revelation of the racism rampant in the military, they changed the moniker to "Black Jack."

And don't even get me started on the issues that have been revealed to me first-hand by African-American WWII and Korea vets upon their returns stateside after their combat tours.

Anyway, hope you have a great New Year!

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions.

John T. Reed