Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown and Defense One's Marcus Weisgerber

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown and Defense One's Marcus Weisgerber Defense One / Audrey Decker

‘Woke-ism’ Not an Issue, Top Military Leaders Say

Inclusion is actually a critical part of unit cohesion, Air Force chief and Marine commandant said.

Top military leaders say there is no evidence that diversity policies have harmed recruiting or readiness, and that troops and recruits actually value inclusion—despite repeated criticism of so-called “woke” policies by right-wing politicians.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown and Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger both commented on the issue in exclusive interviews with Defense One as part of the annual State of Defense series

Brown said the Air Force is building a team for every service member—“no matter their background.” 

Conservative lawmakers have argued that “woke-ism” is causing the military’s recent recruiting woes. The House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing Thursday to question military officials on the impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion policies on the “readiness, lethality, and cohesion of the military forces.”

But airmen need to feel comfortable that they’re part of an organization that cares about them, Brown told Defense One.

“What I will tell you is when people join our military, they want to look around and see somebody who looks like them. They want to be part of a team [and] feel like they're included,” Brown said. “They don't want to join something that they feel like you're put as an outcast.”

To address the Air Force’s recruiting challenges, current service members need to build relationships with younger generations to share the “tremendous opportunities” that military service provides, Brown said. 

Berger said he’s seen “zero evidence” that diversity policies have detracted from the Corps’ warfighting focus and in fact, a feeling of belonging is inextricably tied to readiness.

Echoing Brown’s comments, Berger said that building a “cohesive” team is a part of preparing a unit for combat.

If there was real concern over progressive policies in the military, Berger said that Marines would leave the Corps—but “that’s not the case at all.”

“Retention last year exceeded our goals this year, way in front of last year, so just the opposite has happened. People want to stay in the Marine Corps, so I don't see any evidence of that,” Berger said.