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New Special Forces diversity chief at MacDill under investigation

The investigation surrounds social media posts allegedly made by Richard Torres-Estrada.
The Dale Mabry entrance of Macdill Air Force Base is pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021 in Tampa. The U.S. Special Operations Command is based here.
The Dale Mabry entrance of Macdill Air Force Base is pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021 in Tampa. The U.S. Special Operations Command is based here. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 31
Updated Mar. 31

TAMPA — The first chief diversity and inclusion officer for the U.S. Special Operations Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base, is under investigation following allegations made on social media about posts he allegedly made, according to a spokesman. Richard Torres-Estrada started on the job on March 1.

The command, which trains and equips units including Army Rangers and Navy SEALs, announced Torres-Estrada’s hiring last week as part of its Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.

On Friday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized posts that he said appeared on Torres-Estrada’s Facebook page and included a photo of former President Donald Trump holding up a bible in front of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., shown alongside a picture of Adolf Hitler, who also appears to be holding a book, as reported by Stars and Stripes.

Ken McGraw, spokesman for the command, told Stars and Stripes that it “does not look into social media posts for hiring of civilians in these positions,” he said. The command follows procedures established by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force for hiring civilian employees, he said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

Torres-Estrada has been temporarily assigned to other duties, pending the results of the investigation, McGraw said. He was hired to direct all diversity and inclusion initiatives, policies and programs at the command and serve as an advocate and advisor for its senior leadership.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday that Special Operations Commander Gen. Richard Clarke made Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin aware of the investigation and that Austin “fully supports General Clarke’s desire to look into this further.”

In the command’s announcement of Torres-Estrada’s hiring, he was described as having “nearly two decades worth of experience working diversity and inclusion programs and activities in federal agencies.”

Creating the diversity and inclusion officer position was one of many goals outlined in the command’s plan, released March 3.