Two deployed Michigan Army National Guard soldiers who in September posted an obscenity-laced TikTok video of themselves, armed and in uniform, chiding “liberals and Democrats” for being "crybabies and snowflakes” now face disciplinary action following an investigation.
The two soldiers are assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, which is deployed under U.S. Army Central Command, according to Air Force Capt. Andrew Layton, a Michigan National Guard spokesman. Neither the Michigan Guard nor U.S. Army Central would share the names of the soldiers, whose nametapes are not visible in the video.
“We are aware of the video posted to TikTok by two U.S. Army Soldiers on Sept. 15, 2020 in the CENTCOM" region, said U.S. Army Central spokesman Col. Armando Hernandez in an email to Military Times. “The video was removed from TikTok, the incident was investigated, and appropriate action is being taken.”
The Michigan Army National Guard said it is taking disciplinary action against the two soldiers.
“Unit leadership is aware of this video and disciplinary action is presently being taken,” said Layton in a statement to Military Times. “Regardless of the video’s origin, the reprehensible comments made in the video are unacceptable and inconsistent with professional military values.”
Layton declined to say exactly what rules the soldiers broke or what punishment they received.
One expert contacted by Military Times said the soldiers appeared to violate rules prohibiting wearing the uniform in a situation that could “discredit” the military, as well as one banning uniform wear related to political activities.
“This case is egregious and clear-cut,” said Jim Golby, a civil-military relations expert and senior fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Clements Center for National Security,
Army officials say the soldiers also may have violated security rules by using a personal device.
The video has gone viral since it was originally posted to TikTok, subsequently deleted and then partially re-uploaded to to the Art TakingBack YouTube channel as “Two Soldiers Overseas Have A Message For Liberals.” In it, the two soldiers address the camera as if they were speaking directly to “liberals and Democrats.”
Army officials learned of the video and its origins in late September, according to a defense official.
The channel, which was created in early September, has more than 13,000 subscribers, but does not appear to create its own content. It contains numerous pro-Donald Trump and anti-Democrat and anti-left-wing activist videos. A Google reverse image search of the channel’s icon shows a Twitter account called Art TakingBack, with more than 115,000 followers and a description that reads, “I’m here to support my President #Trump #MAGA #TRUMP2020 #WalkAway.”
The soldiers recorded the video with a personal device while on duty, explained Hernandez, the ARCENT spokesman. “Using a personal device and social media platform while on duty presents a security concern,” he said in a statement to Military Times. The Army banned TikTok from Army-issued mobile devices in January, citing data security concerns.
Both soldiers were wearing body armor, and they had their rifles slung throughout the video.
The soldier on the left, a specialist speaking through a mouthful of chewing tobacco, refers to “crybabies and snowflakes burning our f---king country down.”
“Is that guy drinking unicorn semen?” said the soldier on the right, a staff sergeant. He also encouraged his imaginary audience to “strap your balls on, you know, and be a f---king man. Move out of your mom’s basement and stand up for something.”
Golby said the comments appears to violate Defense Department rules prohibiting “any activity that may be reasonably viewed" as linking the DoD with a partisan political stance."
Videos such as this can also have a negative impact on perceptions of partisanship in the military, explained Golby, who has been studying the partisan activities of troops with Peter Feaver, who served as a White House advisor to former President George W. Bush and is now a political science professor at Duke University.
“My research with Peter Feaver shows that partisan activity by servicemembers undermines trust and helps polarize the public’s confidence in the military,” Golby said. “A viral video like this one that includes negative and vitriolic partisan attacks is likely to be extremely damaging and could even have longer term impacts on recruiting.”
The bottom line is that troops must remain apolitical, said a spokesman for the two soldiers' higher headquarters.
“Soldiers are public servants who have taken an oath to defend the principles of the U.S. Constitution while upholding DoD’s tradition of remaining apolitical,” said Hernandez, the U.S. Army Central spokesman.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.