In 2017, Military Times ran a poll that found nearly a quarter of service members witnessed issues involving white nationalism within the ranks.
The armed forces, and especially the Marine Corps as of late, have been vaulted into the public spotlight following reports of some service members participating in white supremacist activities — most notably, illegal actions coinciding with the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Several Marines connected to actions taken during that event have since been separated from the Corps. One of those Marines, Lance Cpl. Vasillios G. Pistolis, was alleged to have connections to a neo-Nazi group known as Atomwaffen Division, per reporting by ProPublica.
It’s a serious issue that has lawmakers scrambling for information from military leaders to ensure service branches are adequately tracking and keeping extremists and those associated with hate groups out of the armed forces.
In February alone, there have been at least three incidents involving service members and allegations of racism, bigotry and ties to white nationalism, or an affinity for Nazi propaganda. All three cases involve a Marine or a former Marine.
The latest incident now involves two Marines with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based out of Miramar, California, appearing in a short undated video that seems to show the two Marines in blackface.
The video, originally posted to Snapchat, has since gone viral on Twitter.
In the video, one Marine can be heard saying blackface, and another uses what sounds like a slur against African Americans.
The 3rd Marine Aircraft, or 3rd MAW, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement that an investigation has been launched to “determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the content.”
“3rd MAW takes all allegations of discriminatory behavior very seriously as they stand in stark contrast of our core values of honor, courage and commitment and do not reflect the discipline and professionalism of the Marines and Sailors of 3rd MAW,” 3rd MAW said.
One of the Marines in the video told KPBS that the masks were made of charcoal and were used for cleaning pores.
He told KPBS he didn’t mean to post the images and that it was a “bad mistake.”
“We had no intention to offend,” he told KPBS.
Over the weekend, another alleged incident involving racism and a Marine blew up on Twitter.
The Twitter handle @Jacobite_Edward, allegedly run by Lance Cpl. Mason Mead, included scores of Nazi propaganda and even a picture of U.S. military explosives in the shape of a swastika.
Mead is assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, based out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Naval Criminal Investigative Service is currently investigating that incident.
“Our leaders are committed to maintaining an environment of professionalism, dignity, and respect,” a 3rd MAW spokesperson said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.