The Trials of PVT Maranon: DEI is a Prescription for Failure in the Military

"There should be only one purpose for an armed force. That is killing people and breaking things. Everything else is noise, or it should be. There should be no discussion about diversity, no discussion about any of this DEI stuff. Let's train our forces. Let's zero your weapon. Let's throw a hand grenade. There should be no discussion about genders or multiple genders. That is what Americans pay all these big bills for. It is for a group of people to be always ready and as lethal as possible. It is used for a short period of time and then nobody bothers us. If you're not doing that, you're wrong." ~Col. (Ret) Don Jenkins

As Col. (Ret) Don Jenkins stated with great clarity above, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) should be the very last thing with which our military should concern itself. Moreover, such concerns should certainly not interfere with how behavior on a base is managed organizationally. In the old days, rules and regulations mattered. And the military has its own set of standards and rules that follow our Constitution. The regulations and rules have worked well for decades to condition our young soldiers with discipline and grit, qualities they will rely upon to handle the horrors they encounter on the battlefield. The mission should be focused on protecting the nation and our soldiers.

"Laws, rules and regulations are meant to protect the soldier, not to be used as a weapon against them. Once you use laws, rules and regulations as a weapon against a service member, you have lost all of your integrity, and you need to take off the uniform and seek employment elsewhere." ~MSG (Ret) Jack Dona

Now, it seems DEI is the top dog. DEI has permeated our culture, creating an environment where the ordinary course of events, the standard procedures, and the orderly responses are being upended. Everything is relative in the world of DEI. There is no true North. Likewise, the same has permeated our military forces. Soldiers of every rank are told to embrace or bow to certain ideologies. Policies have shifted to ensure that all genders and races are included. Race, gender, ancestry, and "how you feel" are now woven not only into the culture at large but also into the culture of the military. Get on board, or there will be consequences. Biden signed an Executive Order reversing Trump's ban on overtly transgender individuals in the military. There are many in the LGBTQ community who argue against it because it does little to enhance the well-being of trans people.

Physical fitness standards have been lowered to accommodate women and older males. Lowering the bar on physical fitness tests jeopardizes military readiness. The shift to DEI as a top priority for military personnel is not only consequential; it will almost certainly prove deadly. The Modern War Institute at West Point writes,

"Indeed, the presence of just a handful of individuals who cannot run two miles faster than twenty-one minutes has the potential to derail a training exercise, not to mention an actual combat patrol. Entire companies of 130 soldiers will be forced to frequently halt operations in order to medically evacuate the ill-prepared as they succumb to fatigue and injury. Missions will be delayed and other soldiers will be overburdened with the weight of their unfit teammates' equipment. This scenario is inconvenient and bad for morale during a training exercise; in combat it could be deadly." 

When the day is done, American soldiers, quite simply, will have spent far too much of their time worrying about how to appease others than they will be about their readiness for battle. DEI is nothing more than a distraction, and in the case of PVT Piero Maranon, the focus on DEI has significantly affected every aspect of his time in the military thus far.

PVT Piero Maranon-Velazco, age 32, is stationed at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. For months now, he has been subjected to restriction, punishment, and harassment allegedly because of his beliefs and opinions. Some of the harassment has resulted from immature, poorly prepared superiors, according to Col. Jenkins, who has spoken with both Maranon and the Brigade Commander. In other cases, however, it has been more systemically oriented. That means DEI is the driving force behind policies and procedures. Everything is seen through the lens of diversity and inclusion. That cultural mindset sets the bar for any interaction, whether it is interpersonal or organizational.

For example, a culture oriented toward concern over DEI almost certainly means recruits are more likely to frivolously report that which in another era would have been considered inane behavior. There is little fear of being labeled a snitch because "every person has his truth." In fact, DEI policies all but encourage soldiers to report behaviors that offend them.

Such a climate also sets the bar for the way incidents are handled. A military that is overly sensitive to issues associated with diversity or even political beliefs has resulted, at least in Maranon's case, in a complete breakdown of procedures and common sense. Maranon was not handled sensibly by superiors at the time. A solid Commander might have stopped the conflict in its tracks had they dealt with the issues immediately. The type of climate we now experience has changed norms and shifted the framework. The entire ecosystem is disoriented, unfocused, and out of whack. In Maranon's case, it is very clear, according to multiple sources, that things were not managed sensibly or with immediacy, whether it was person-to-person or at an organizational level.

Maranon was ultimately subjected to punishments that escalated well beyond what they should have, according to Col. Jenkins, who told UncoverDC, "Let's say for sake of conversation these DEI policies are active in the military. He is targeted by someone who was hurt by his words or another who out and out lied about his behavior or words. In any other era, and even now, it should be that an NCO walks up to him and says words to this effect, democratically but firmly, and asks him to 'knock it off'. The NCO should look him in his face [and] set him straight. This should never have gone beyond the NCO."

UncoverDC spent some time on Tuesday speaking with the young man. Maranon is a conservative, traditional, religious young man who emigrated from Peru, a country besieged for decades by the Shining Path. Having grown up in a Socialist country, Maranon understands the opportunities America offers its people. He saw the effects of the Maoist revolutionary movement that gripped his country in the 1980s and 1990s. Shining Path caused terrible violence and economic upheaval in his country. He knows what it is to live without. As a result of the failing economy and sparse opportunities, his parents couldn't afford to have another child. Maranon joined the American military because of his childhood experiences. He still sees this country as the best nation on earth. When asked why he enlisted in the Army, his answer was immediate and resolute, "I want to give back to this country. For a lot of people, it is hard [to] understand that, even from people here in the Army. Two trainees told me early in basic, literally straightforward that they hated the American flag." Maranon told UncoverDC that his first thought upon hearing their statements about the flag was that he might be unable to trust his fellow soldiers. And in his mind, there is no unified purpose around which everyone can convene or agree. It naturally disorganizes soldiers and could absolutely put them at risk. Uniformity and solidarity of purpose and belief are very important values in the field of battle. 

Based on his various exchanges, conversations in the barracks, or his opinions on any number of topics—all First Amendment activity—Maranon has been harassed, abused, and separated. According to his attorney, he has been denied all rights since he enlisted in July. To be clear, separated is a military term. It means he was set apart from his company and his battalion and prevented from joining in with almost all activities.

Maranon was supposed to graduate on October 4 with his classmates. However, the night before, he was called in by his Commander. Maranon was shocked to hear that his Commander's first question was whether he had read "Mein Kampf," as if to imply "I am a white supremacist or a Nazi." Maranon was then handed an Article 15 without notice, without charges, with no prior counseling or ability to remedy whatever he might have done wrong. Article 15 is a form of "non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) provision. As such, it permits commanders to resolve allegations of minor misconduct against a soldier without resorting to higher forms of discipline, such as a court-martial.

Additionally, on October 3, his mother was flying in from Peru, and his wife, who is seven months pregnant, was also on her way from Nevada to attend his graduation. Instead of attending, they spent the entire day confined to their car. Maranon says he has been most devastated by how his family was treated. Everyone knew they were coming, and he feels it was unnecessary, vengeful behavior on the part of his superiors to this day. Below is a page from his 11-page statement. Notably, he was accused of many things but wasn't asked for his side of the story until mid-November. 

As Maranon pieces together the things that may have prevented his graduation and landed him with an Article 15, he recalls multiple instances, whether in formation or in the barracks, where he would join in a conversation, ask a question, or be playing around as young men do when they are blowing off steam in the barracks. In one instance, Maranon and other trainees were in formation. There is a procedure called "covering," whereby soldiers set their distance from one another so that they are properly spaced and orderly. It involves raising your left hand to the side to distance yourself properly from the soldier beside you. Soldiers do the same for those in front of them. The trainees were fooling around, and one commented it was like doing the Nazi salute. Maranon, who has had direct experience with repressive regimes in his country of origin, admonished the trainee stating and then showing them that it was the right hand that was used in the Nazi salute. For that, Maranon was allegedly reported without his knowledge for being a Nazi by a trainee who said he was Jewish.

In another instance, early in his training, his phone was being monitored by other trainees at a charging station while he attended religious services. The screen background on his phone is set to display a photo of President Trump. "The females in charge of the phones saw this," said Maranon, "And told me I was a racist, a Nazi, and a white supremacist, and this is without mentioning the insults I received from the black females toward my wife for being white. I believe my fellow trainees began to target me because of these things." He believes he was reported, and that was where the targeted harassment began. There were other incidents and exchanges, but none of his "offenses" amounted to anything more than opinions and discussion. His behavior certainly did not seem to rise to the level of an Article 15 and Chapter 11. Chapter 11 is a type of administrative discharge during a probationary period for soldiers who have been in the military for less than 180 days. Maranon was being considered for discharge based on the thinnest of cases. There are orderly, written regulations and procedures that frame how these incidents should be handled with prescriptive measures that help guide the process to protect soldiers and the military in general.

In Maranon's case, he has spent every day since October 3 separated in one way or another from the other trainees, for at least 40 days on a cot in a large room and after sitting idle in the barracks. He has been unable to participate in activities, including the shooting range, exercise, and sometimes even church service. For weeks, he was only allowed to eat Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) or packaged food and had no access to his phone. He was prevented from obtaining his dog tags and military card, and his naturalization process was delayed. Countless other senseless punishments have been meted out. On January 24, he was told he had a Chapter 14, which carries the possibility of a weightier discharge level for misconduct.

Many people on the outside have intervened on behalf of PVT Maranon to remedy his status. They include but are not limited to State Senator Borelli, Rep. Gosar (AZ-R), MSG Jack Dona, Retired, Col. (Ret) Don Jenkins, LTC (Ret) Pete Chambers, and even a civilian (former JAG) attorney who is representing him because the Army told him "there was a conflict of interest" at the office where he originally asked for representation. The civilian lawyer filed a Formal Article 138 Complaint on February 2 and copied it to superiors up the chain. 

It is a sad state of affairs when the Army cannot handle its affairs properly. PVT Maranon is still in limbo, with a Chapter 14 discharge hanging around his neck, sitting idle in the barracks day after day, awaiting a decision. He wants the superiors who have not followed regulations to be disciplined accordingly. He believes it will be the only way to maintain order in the military properly. He does not want his remedy limited to a physical move to another battalion. He views it as a form of "bribery."

The great irony is that a military that now pushes equal opportunity and DEI has failed to follow many of those same policies with this particular soldier. He believes many others like him are being handled similarly. He also observed others around him who were treated differently despite their poor behavior, a point PVT Maranon mentions in his statement. He was not given due process along the way, and the investigation has been shoddy at best. According to Col. Jenkins and MSG Jack Dona, Maranon's alleged actions and accompanying punishments do not add up.

Maranon and many veterans I know still love and revere the very country that is now letting them down. They see institutions like the military buckling under the weight of political and ideological policies and groupthink. A country for which many soldiers have laid down their lives is fast becoming a country in which those who survived multiple deployments no longer recognize or believe to be truly free. Maranon, however, has an entirely different perspective because of his Peruvian origins. As with many, he came here dreaming his life would be different. It is best to leave you with his closing thoughts and the simplicity of his words:

"I asked myself, why did my company wait until October 3, when my family was already here, at least just to show some honor, respect, and to give me the chance to collect evidence in my favor in the same way they collected evidence against me? Is this really an Equal Opportunity?"

"I also love this country that from the very beginning I've been looking and requesting a document where I can formally quit to my salary and serve in the Army at honorem because more than to receive, I'm looking forward to giv[ing] back to this beautiful nation that unfortunately is turning little by little into the same thing I ran away from when I left Peru.

I still have faith in the Constitution, justice, in God, and even still in the Army cause even though I'm convinced this is entirely a political issue, this won't bring down centuries of history and victories of the most powerful Army and nation in the entire world.

We, the people, in God we trust.

May God bless the Army and may God bless the United States of America." ~Piero Antonio Marañon-Velazco

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