Photo leaked to March Forward! of a note posted at Fort Lewis instructing personnel not to provide details about the lockdown to the media.
Yesterday evening the command at 4/9 Infantry bowed to public pressure and the action of soldiers within the unit, and ended their inhumane lockdown of Charlie Company. After six long days, soldiers were finally reunited with their families.
There is no denying that the public pressure generated to “Free 4/9 Infantry” was a top factor in the ending of the lockdown. Commanders claimed the lockdown would continue until they found the equipment lost by the officers, but it was ended with no progress in their investigation. Soldiers inside the base are telling us that the command was in a frenzy all day discussing the scandal, and the command posted warnings all over the barracks ordering soldiers not to talk to the press.
The lifting of the lockdown proves that soldiers have the ability to collectively organize and advocate for their own interests and well-being, and actually win victories against their chain of command. March Forward! members in 4/9 Infantry were able to spring into action and launch a national campaign exposing their treatment.
Dozens of soldiers in 4/9 heroically distributed hundreds of flyers on base calling for an end to the lockdown, circulated a petition, leaked information to the media and spread the word across the entire country. Soldiers reported dozens chanting “Free 4/9!” in the company motorpool.
Thousands of supporters responded by calling the Brigade and Battalion headquarters, sending them emails, calling the press and signing the online petition, making widespread public support impossible for the command at Ft. Lewis to ignore.
After just one day of the “Free 4/9” campaign, which included actions inside the unit, public support and pressure from outside, and intense media work, the command was forced to meet our demand and end the lockdown.
This is a major victory for the soldiers in 4/9 Infantry, and all service members in the U.S. military, because it demonstrates the collective power we have and charts the way forward. With enlisted troops and recently-discharged veterans facing such deep problems—a complete failure in mental health care, constant deployment to an unpopular war, disproportionate unemployment and homelessness—it is only the kind of united action displayed by 4/9 Infantry that can resolve any of these problems in our favor.
It’s obvious to all of us that our chain of command cares nothing about our lives—from the company commanders, to the Pentagon generals, to the millionaire politicians—but we have the power to fight back when troops and veterans organize together. That’s what March Forward! is doing.
But our work is far from over. 4/9 Infantry is still denyed the right to the ACAP process, which we also exposed in the “Free 4/9” campaign, and conditions for all active-duty troops and veterans continue to plummet. Let’s continue to fight!
March Forward! is an organization of veterans and active-duty service members affiliated with the ANSWER Coalition.