Some U.S. soldiers at a military base in Alaska were allegedly granted permissions to use racial slurs against one another during what became known as “Racial Thursdays.”
The Army has launched a probe into the allegations.
An NCO and a “junior soldier,” both identified as minorities, spoke to Army Times on condition of anonymity about the investigation.
They disclosed details behind the alleged practice, which they described as “tradition.”
“The way it was put to me was it was a tradition among the guys,” the junior soldier told Army Times. “Every Thursday, they wouldn’t make you, you didn’t have to participate, but they’d remind you. Everybody would get a joke in or one person would be picked out and everybody would say jokes to that one person.”
“A soldier I’m pretty good friends with, he was getting picked on the whole entire day until we were off work,” he added. “He’s Latino. They were calling him wetback, border jumper, those kinds of jokes.”
Fights would almost break out over the “Racial Thursdays,” according to the junior soldier and the NCO.
Lt. Col. Alan Brown, a U.S. Army Alaska spokesman, confirmed to NBC News that the command continues to investigate allegations detailed in an informal complaint.
The commander’s inquiry was still considered an informal investigation at the unit level as of Wednesday evening, Brown added.
Army Times revealed that the soldiers involved belong to 2nd Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment.
That battalion is part of the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
“When I first got to my unit, someone said we should do ‘Racial Thursdays’ because it’s been a tradition,” said the anonymous NCO, who is black. “It’s something they made up where you can say any racist remark you want without any consequences. The platoon sergeant said no, but the shit is still going on.”
The NCO said he has not been the target of any racial slurs because he refuses to participate or does not tolerate the practice.
However, the soldier noted that he felt compelled to talk to the media and shed light on the matter because the unit “has a bad habit of sweeping things under the rug.”
He has filed “an equal opportunity complaint against his platoon leader, who allegedly encouraged ‘Racial Thursdays’ as a way to build morale and camaraderie,” notes Army Times.
Chinese-American Pvt. Danny Chen belonged to the same unit where “Racial Thursdays” allegedly took place. Chen ended up committing suicide on Oct. 3, 2011, while stationed in Afghanistan, military authorities have said.
He reportedly killed himself because he was subjected to abuse and hazing by his fellow soldiers over his Chinese heritage.
The investigation into “Racial Thursdays” is not connected to Pvt. Chen’s case, said the U.S. Army Alaska spokesman.