Mark Milley: A 'Handful of Drag Queen Shows' on Military Bases Doesn't Mean Military 'Went Woke'

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"A handful of drag queen shows" on military bases doesn't mean that the military "went woke," Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Wednesday.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Post, Milley said charges that the military is pushing "wokeness" and critical race theory are "overstated."

"I'll use drag queen shows as an example," Milley said. "How many times it happened? It happened a few. That's true. Probably shouldn't happen. But it did. But to say that … the entire military went woke because a handful of drag queen shows that shouldn't happen to begin with I think is an overstatement."

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) in June flagged six drag shows at military bases, the Washington Free Beacon reported. One at a Nevada Air Force base, which the Pentagon canceled following a letter from Gaetz, was billed as "family-friendly" and had no minimum age requirement.

In another case, the Navy appointed a "nonbinary" drag queen to be a "digital ambassador" tasked with attracting "younger Americans amid recruitment shortages," the Free Beacon reported.

Those shortages have amounted to a "once-in-a-generation military recruitment crisis," retired Army captain Jeremy Hunt told Congress in March. Hunt and other experts pointed to the military's focus on "woke" initiatives, including Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training, as the main reason for the crisis.

Republicans have strongly criticized that focus, backing bills to ban the drag shows and other "woke" initiatives.

The Army last year put its soldiers through "training on gender pronouns and coaching officers on when to offer soldiers gender transition surgery," according to documents obtained by the Free Beacon. The Navy, meanwhile, trained sailors on "proper gender pronouns" in a video "modeled after a children's show."

Public confidence in the military has plunged to its lowest point in over two decades, polling found last month.

Alongside DEI priorities, President Joe Biden announced in April that his administration will grade the military and other agencies on their efforts to "advance environmental justice" and deliver "benefits to disadvantaged communities."

Milley in the interview admitted the "recruiting challenge" but said that "there's never a single causal factor." The general insisted that COVID-19 and a spike in recruits who failed the academic test to get into the military are more significant reasons for the crisis.