American Family News spoke to Lt. Col. Ryan Sweazey (USAF-Ret.), the founder of Walk the Talk Foundation, a group that advocates for and protects whistleblowers. The former F-16 fighter pilot once served as Inspector General (IG) in the Air Force where he saw and called attention to various deficiencies within the IG system and Department of Defense.
As the founder of an organization that recognizes the tough plight for many military whistleblowers, Sweazey says the recently published Epoch Times story of Sergeant Javier Ortiz resonated with him. As that story reports, Ortiz is a Marine Corps artilleryman who was subjected to a fraudulent discharge and threatened with deportation – but has now gone public, saying he was "betrayed" by the military.
Sweazey admits he is "very cynical and jaded" when it comes to the military's response to an individual service member's grievance.
"There are very few entities – whether it be the military institution or committees and members of Congress – that will stand up for an individual, especially when that individual is fighting against the inertia of the military system," he laments.
According to Sweazey, Ortiz took the correct approach to "leverage" his complaint against the Marine Corps. "He went to the press – and apart from money, that's something Congress is seemingly motivated by, particularly when it pertains to an individual's issues."
Neither Congress nor the military leadership wants "to be called out or embarrassed," he contends
"Time and time again, alleged systems that are in place – like an inspector general or a chain of command – fail the individual military member," he argues. "In trying to seek redress, nearly every member of the military knows that to fight the institution within the institution's own systems is a fool's errand."
As a result, Sweazey says, "the wise man is forced to go an alternative route that has a higher chance of success, and oftentimes that is to take to the public and airwaves." And in this case, he states, "Ortiz did the right thing by speaking out."
'Paying it forward'
Too many members of the military remain silent amid wrongdoing, says the Air Force Academy graduate, adding there's a reason why only a few come forward.
"The military will sometimes libel and slander them, saying this person is a complainer, or he whines, or he has some kind of vendetta," he says, adding that the military is "very savvy" when it responds in this fashion.
"[Because] when a service member considers the fight against the juggernaut of the U.S. military or government, they typically capitulate," Sweazey points out. "But when they leverage the resources of the media and the support of others in the same situation, then they become a force to be reckoned with."
In taking that step, he continues, the greatest motivation for a whistleblower should be that "he can prevent an incident from happening to others, as it happened to him." He adds: "There's something altruistic and empowering about it, giving a deeper sense of purpose in why someone is paying it forward."
Sweazey contends that while an individual may have been wronged and may never see justice, he or she can "effect change" and ensure that future military members down the road "don't suffer the same fate they did."
The founder of Walk the Talk Foundation commends Ortiz for sharing his story with Uniformed Services Justice & Advocacy Group (USJAG), which recently launched Fabius Overwatch, an initiative created to address the pressing need for increased transparency, justice, and accountability within the Department of Defense.