Racism Against Hispanics Among U.S. Army Lines

The commander of New Mexico’s National Guard is demanding an apology from the Army brass after dozens of his soldiers in a mostly Hispanic unit were ordered to strip to their gym shorts and searched for gang tattoos while on duty in Kuwait.

Army officials said the searches last May of 58 New Mexico National Guardsmen in a unit called Task Force Cobra were proper and legal.

But Brig. Gen. Kenny Montoya, head of the state National Guard, said he believes ethnicity played a role in the episode — the unit is 55 percent Hispanic.

“I said something wrong was done there, and it was because of race, and I want to make sure it will not happen again,” Montoya said.

The search, in which the soldiers were ordered to take off their shirts, shoes and socks and then were looked over for tattoos, was prompted by an unsubstantiated allegation from a soldier in another unit who complained about gang activity among soldiers in Kuwait.

At the time, several members of Task Force Cobra objected that the searches were racially motivated, and within days, Montoya asked his Army bosses to apologize. When that didn’t happen, Montoya wrote an apology and had that read and posted at their barracks.

Montoya, in a June 1 letter to Gen. Peter Schoomaker in the office of the Army chief of staff, said the unit “was racially targeted and illegally searched for body tattoos just because the unit consists of a large number of Hispanic-surnamed soldiers. An Army CID agent without any credible evidence, and armed only with information about an individual soldier from a different base and in a different unit, made a decision to target my unit.”

“All I asked was that someone with equal rank to me would go over to these great Americans and apologize — this still has not been accomplished.”

After the Albuquerque Journal reported the incident this week, New Mexico’s congressional delegation demanded that acting Army Secretary Pete Geren order a full investigation. Gov. Bill Richardson, the nation’s only Hispanic governor and a Democratic presidential hopeful, said he supports an investigation into the “degrading searches.”

The New Mexico chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens also expressed outrage.

“This is no way to treat our troops that are sacrificing their lives for the cost of our freedom. Racial profiling is reprehensible and should not be condoned,” said Paul A. Martinez, the group’s executive director.

The issue affected everyone in the unit, Hispanic or not, Montoya said. “They’re all brothers in arms. Most had come out of Iraq, where they were in immediate danger.”

The incident began after a Chicago Sun-Times article quoted Army Reserve Sgt. Jeffrey Stoleson of the 127th Infantry at Camp Navistar, Kuwait, about alleged gang activity among troops.

Stoleson, a corrections officer in civilian life, complained he was “tired of serving and putting his life on the line with gang bangers,” Montoya said. Later, the sergeant told Army Criminal Investigation Division agents that a soldier with a Hispanic surname, Morales, in the 127th Infantry and unnamed soldiers in the 111th Air Defense Artillery — to which the security force Cobra belongs — had gang tattoos.

On May 25, CID agent Paul McGuire ordered the Guard members at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, to checked for tattoos. The inspections quickly came to the attention of Montoya back in New Mexico. He telephoned up the chain of command; another round of searches set for the next day was stopped. When Montoya asked, he was told no other units were searched.

“The only tie with Morales was my guys were the only unit with 50 percent Hispanics,” the general said.

McGuire found no gang tattoos. A later investigation said Morales denied being a member of a gang and even explained the meaning of his tattoos.

The Army forbids extremist, racist, sexist or vulgar tattoos. Army regulations don’t specifically forbid gang membership, but do prohibit membership in any extremist organization.

Several members of the targeted unit were current or former police officers who would have picked up on any signs of gang activity, said Maj. Kenneth Nava, a spokesman for the New Mexico Guard.

Maj. Anne Edgecomb in the Army’s public affairs department in the Pentagon said in an e-mail Wednesday to The Associated Press that the Army had just received the congressional delegation’s letter calling for a full investigation and that no response had yet been sent.

“The U.S. Army, one of the most ethnically diverse organizations in our nation, provides equal opportunity to all our soldiers regardless of race, ethnicity or gender,” she said.

The Army’s inquiry to date has found the CID and officers of the 111th “approved and coordinated the plan” for searches. An attorney with the military’s Judge Advocate General said having soldiers remove their shirts to verify gang tattoos was legal.

Nava said that plans as described and plans as executed are not always the same.

The inquiry recommended discipline against three New Mexico soldiers who objected to the searches. Nava said those three were counseled, but there was no long-term discipline that would hurt their careers.

Source: newmexican.com.

15 Responses to Racism Against Hispanics Among U.S. Army Lines

  1. Miriam Machuca says:

    Well first of all I was suprised that they made the solders stripe down just so they could look for tattos on them,that was a really races thing to do.They had no right to that to them.First of all cuse theyr are solders and thaye are fighting for our cuntry.Second of all cause why should they care if they have tattos or not they are not herting no one.I think that the only reason thet did that is cause hey are races agenst latinos.If they were not tring to be races why did they not make all solders sripe down.Finaly i think this was a really bad thing they did they should apologise to the solders.After all they are heir for one main reason which is to help us fight for our cuntry. -Miriam Machuca

  2. Bianca Olvera says:

    While reading this article I was astonished by the level of racism that there is, even when it comes to american soldiers. People shouldn’t look at the fact that they’re of a different ethnicity, what they should do is look at the fact that those men which they are criticizing are risking they’re life so that all of U.S.A citizens (including those who are racist) can have a better future. I do find it very inappropriate that even in military bases where there are many people with so many different ethnicities there could be racism. I also wonder if the army officer would of heard rumors that white soldiers in the squad had gang tattoos would of he taken the same procedure that he took with the hispanics? I don’t know why but I am pretty certain that he wouldn’t of. And all because of the racism status that there is in the United States, because we could all keep claiming that this is not a racist state but the incidents that are happening more often show otherwise.

  3. Kevin Reese says:

    I think what they did was not wrong, but how they went about doing it was terrible. the gang tattoo searches would not have been as extreme as it would have been if the searches were dealt to people other than hispanics. the officers who dealt or the searches or the officers who commanded the searches should AT THE VERY LEAST appologize for what they have done. if i were in that same situation, i would probably went a little more extreme than just asking for an apology. racism exist too much already as it is, and to just simply allow it to continue to spread is completely out of the question.

  4. nalleli arriaga says:

    In this artcle I found out about the discrimination that occurs in the army. I can’t believe that even in a place were racial status isn’t important at all viewsit is something that is. The army is formed to protect, and fight for our freedom and lifes. They are trained to defend their country and their people. The last thing that should be in their mind is race or ethnicity. Why should they care if their soldiers are are hispanics,asians,etc. The army is discriminating its soldiersby the way they look and not by the way they perform. They target hispanics because they are different from the restand by saying rest i’m refering white americans.Hispanic army soldiers are searched for any tattos that could be a sign pf gang enviorment.The army asumes that because a hispanic has a tattoo he/she is a danger to the society. They are being treated as if they were some kind of criminal.Something that a white man would never have to go trough, but the worst thing of all is that many events like these are legal.

  5. Classified Bill says:

    The US army is a racist, ethnocentric, 4th Reich operated organization.

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  7. Chad says:

    The sad truth is that there is racism by every ethnic group against each other. The worst unit I have seen was one I was just in, A all sorts of names and there was not a week that didn’t go by where one of my tires was being slashed because I was of mixed ethnicity. When I said domething to my leadership about underage drinking that two staff sergeant were allowing at their home I was called a traitor and treated like a pariah. I don’t know how i managed to finish without getting into any trouble.

  8. Sebilla says:


    I hear you there was a female staff sergeant who is still there who looked at me in passing one morning and said that its too bad there can’t be a second holocaust for porch monkeys like me. I think she was Colombian but she does not represent the decent, hard working Hispanics in the Army.

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