Black people and women were more likely to be dismissed from the Maryland Army National Guard Officer Candidate School than their white and male counterparts over the last five years, according to data provided to Congress and obtained by Military.com.
The data has prompted seven Democratic members of Maryland's congressional delegation to ask the National Guard's inspector general to investigate bias within the Maryland National Guard.
"We are concerned that there may be a systemic issue within the MDNG OCS [Maryland National Guard Officer Candidate School] and that a thorough, independent examination is necessary to identify any root causes of inconsistencies in their implementation of United States Army and National Guard policies and regulations," Reps. Anthony Brown, Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Jamie Raskin and David Trone wrote Friday to National Guard Bureau Inspector General retired Maj. Gen. Laurie Hummel.
From 2017 to 2021, 34 out of 85 Black candidates, or about 40%, were dismissed from the Maryland Army National Guard's Officer Candidate School, which provides training to become a commissioned officer, according to a letter the Maryland National Guard sent to lawmakers in December.
By comparison, 32 of 153 white candidates, or about 21%, were dismissed during that time, according to the letter.
Meanwhile, 27 out of 67 women, or about 40%, were dismissed from OCS during the same time period, compared with 59 out of 255 men, or about 23%.
"These statistics are even more concerning given that the demographics of the candidates entering MDARNG [Maryland Army National Guard] OCS largely conform to the demographics of the state, indicating that the disparities in Black and female dismissal rates are arising during the school itself," the lawmakers wrote to the inspector general.
Asked for comment on the lawmakers' letter and the data, the Maryland National Guard told Military.com that Guard officials "appreciate our elected representatives' interest and care for our Soldiers' well-being, which leaders throughout our organization also share."
"Treating everyone with dignity, respect, and fairness regardless of demographics is a fundamental value of our organization and a non-negotiable expectation of every Maryland National Guard member at every level," Maryland National Guard spokesperson Capt. Benjamin Hughes said in an email. "The people of Maryland have a right to expect this, and we will settle for no less."
In the December letter to lawmakers, Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, the state adjutant general, also insisted that "racial inequality is unacceptable in our organization."
"It will destroy our readiness, undermine unit cohesion, and sews [sic] the seeds of distrust in our formations at a time when we need our Guard to be ready to serve our state or meet our peer competitors in future conflicts," Gowen wrote.
National Guard Bureau spokesperson Wayne Hall told Military.com it would be "inappropriate to comment" on correspondence between lawmakers and bureau officials.
The data comes after USA Today reported last year on allegations of racial discrimination in the Maryland National Guard, including a Black soldier at OCS being forced to wear chains in 2015 as a punishment for leaving a training site without prior authorization.
The Maryland National Guard argued the punishment was meant to remind the soldier, Sgt. Bruce Weaver, of the chain of command rather than the humiliating symbol of slavery Weaver alleged, but the National Guard Bureau Office of Equality and Inclusion substantiated Weaver's allegations of discrimination and harassment, according to USA Today.
Lawmakers were also prompted to send a letter to the Maryland National Guard in November after receiving a booklet detailing several allegations of racial discrimination, including Weaver's.
The other allegations, which have not been substantiated, include a Black man who says he failed an evaluation at OCS "without any relevant rationale;" a Black woman who says she was "continuously secluded" from other candidates and verbally harassed; an Asian American man who says he was "unfairly disenrolled" from the officer training; and a Black man who says he was involuntarily separated from the Maryland National Guard after filing a complaint against his commander for not giving him a requested health accommodation.
"The MDNG must remain steadfast in its efforts to promote an environment free of racial discrimination and actively remove barriers that prevent all of our service members from realizing their full potential," Brown wrote in a November letter to Gowen. "This objective is especially relevant in the commissioning of officers, given that the demographics of our commissioned officers are significantly less diverse than the enlisted troops they lead."