'We Are All Hurting:' Space Force Leaders Speak Out on Death of George Floyd

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Gen. John "Jay" Raymond and Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman hold the flag as President Trump gestures during the presentation of the Space Force Flag.
Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, Commander U.S. Space Command, left, and Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, right, hold the flag as President Trump gestures, during the presentation of the Space Force Flag in the Oval Office of the White House, May 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Pentagon has yet to publicly address the national conversation of race taking place after the death of unarmed man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer, but the newest military service is speaking out.

The top uniformed leaders of U.S. Space Force condemned Floyd's death and called for introspection to root out biases in a Tuesday letter to service personnel. The letter came a day after Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright described his own experience as a black man and called for improvements to military justice and diversity in a raw social media post.

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In Tuesday's letter, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond and Chief Master Sergeant of Space Force Roger Towberman said the months-old service provided an opportunity to build in more inclusive practices and values from the start.

"Many in our Service feel this pain on a daily basis and we are all hurting as we have experienced the sickening events that have played out in our cities around the country," they wrote in reference to Floyd's May 25 death. " ... Racism is an enemy. It is an enemy of everything we know that is fair, right and just."

They called on Space Force personnel to "look deeper" and probe blind spots and biases they might not fully be aware of.

"We have an opportunity to get this right from the beginning and we are committed to doing so," Raymond and Towberman wrote. "We must build diversity and inclusion into our 'cultural DNA' -- make it one of the bedrock strengths of our service. Diversity is a strength, but only if we maximize our perspectives and experiences."

It's not the first time the leaders of Space Force have described building in new, more inclusive practices as a priority for the service. In March, Maj. Gen. Clinton Crosier, Space Force's director of planning, told the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services that the service was working to develop career paths with flexibility and family leave policies that would make it easier to recruit and retain women and an overall more diverse population.

"We have not yet developed or built what are the core values of the Space Force," he said at the time. "I tell you what, diversity and inclusion has got to be part of it from the foundational level."

The U.S. is now entering a second week of protests in cities across the nation in protest of police violence and racism. More than 18,000 Guard members have been mobilized to support local law enforcement for demonstrations that turn violent, and hundreds of active-duty troops have deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to the Washington, D.C. area on the orders of President Donald Trump and remain in alert status to assist if called upon.

On Tuesday night, the Air Force released a video showing Wright, the top enlisted airman, in conversation with service Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, discussing Wright's experiences and the need for change.

The Pentagon, however, has stayed largely silent on the racial conversation rocking the country, though Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley appeared with Trump on Monday in a highly criticized photo op. The men walked through Lafayette Square, which had been forcibly cleared of protesters ahead of a 7 p.m. curfew, and stopped at St. John's Episcopal Church, where Trump posed with a Bible.

On Tuesday night, the Washington Post reported that military service chiefs had received multiple admonitions from administration officials not to comment publicly on events ahead of planned comments by Esper, who has yet to address the force.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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