April 7, 2021
An active duty Muslim U.S. Army Soldier attempted to work with another Muslim Soldier to request religious accommodations for observing their faith during the month of Ramadan while training at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) near Tacoma, WA. The accommodations being requested were intended to allow the Muslim Soldiers to observe their faith traditions without adversely affecting their unit or personal readiness:
The accommodations I requested involved being assigned to a rear detachment that would provide support to the forward teams during a training mission, granted a light duty to not exhaust my body since I am fasting (no food/fluids) from dawn to dusk, and conducting physical readiness training on my own to maintain my individual readiness.
The soldiers had assumed that they would receive reasonable accommodations. After receiving no response from their initial request, a second memo requesting religious accommodations was submitted which was followed by a “compromise” after a one-on-one conversation with the company commander that did nothing to allow for the religious accommodation requested.
While all of this was going on, I was met with resistance from my chain of command for submitting these requests and seeking an open-door policy conversation with my company commander. All of this made me feel like I was being colluded against by my unit leadership to further prevent me from gaining accommodations. I tried the standard appeal process involving submission of my memorandum request to my Battalion commander. I was told I would have to start over again with submitting my request memo and with time being of the essence in relation to this training exercise starting in a week I felt like I should give up.
This all changed when one of my fellow Soldiers of the same faith discovered MRFF. I let Mikey know about the situation and possible reprisals I may face that would affect my transitioning out of the Army.
This soldier contacted MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein for assistance in resolving this matter. Mikey immediately connected these clients with MRFF Installation Representative at JBLM Traci Moran (a former MRFF client herself) who assisted the clients in developing a powerful message to the unit leadership which finally led to the request for religious accommodation to be granted by the soldiers’ Battalion commander without a problem. After questions by the soldiers Company commander arose about the legitimacy of MRFF’s representation of our clients in this matter, Mikey contacted the Company commander to explain (via email) that:
…understand that Ms. Traci Moran is one of the most effective of the hundreds of our bona fide MRFF installation reps which we have in place with DoD all over the globe…..we often do not use MRFF e-mail addresses because DoD servers tend to reject them….if you reject our MRFF clients’ Ramadan accommodation claims for that paltry and specious reason, it will merely show and substantiate what a charade you are practicing when providing for the religious accommodation rights of minority faith military members under your command
Soon after this email interaction Mikey and our clients’ commanders, Traci Moran provided the following update regarding our client’s request for religious accommodation:
As the MRFF representative at JBLM, I spoke extensively with both of them to get a better picture of what was going on. I helped them draft statements and then wrote my own to send to their Battalion Commander, outlining what they were requesting, how they had been mistreated and what an appropriate way forward would be. Shortly after receiving my email, their Company Commander called them in, questioning my validity because I had contacted the Battalion Commander from my personal email address. I asked you to reach out to the Battalion Commander to confirm my position.
Later that afternoon the two soldiers met with the Battalion Commander who confirmed receipt of my email and proceeded by granting the Religious Accommodations we requested.
MRFF’s clients in this matter summed up both their fear of retribution along with the rapid positive resolution of this matter:
Traci and Mikey came in with a powerful message to my unit leadership which caused my request to be granted by my BN commander without a problem. I fear reprisal from my company level leadership in the form of petty disciplinary actions for small deficiencies that would normally be corrected by pointing them out and allowing me to fix them. However, I let Traci and Mikey know of possible reprisals in the future, and they reassured me that anything such can be disputed against since my unit leadership has portrayed themselves as fostering a hostile environment.
Traci and Mikey were able to do in a few hours what I couldn’t do in SIX MONTHS.
I urge any and all service members to contact MRFF and receive the support you are constitutionally granted. I thank Traci and Mikey for being there for me the whole way through and seeing that my ability to practice my faith in the US Armed Forces is carried out.