Do You Road March to Stay In Shape? It Could Get You Arrested as a Terrorist
Enjoy doing “battle-focused” PT? Do you go running or road marching in remote areas? When you do, do you pull on your Army boots and go jogging or humping in a remote area? Do you enhance realism by carrying a dummy weapon?
A lot of troops do it. It’s good training.
A 23-year-old West Virginia National Guardsman, William Alemar, was arrested while out doing PT. He was carrying an Airsoft rifle, which shoots non-lethal training pellets designed for recreational and training use. They are generally considered safe in force-on-force training, provided participants use appropriate protective equipment.
He was also wearing body armor and military camouflage. He was running near two Martinsburg-area schools when he attracted the attention of police, who stopped him and arrested him. He is being charged with “committing a terroristic act” and “wearing body armor while committing a felony offense.”
Three Martinsburg police officers, Martinsburg Patrol Officers Michael Jones, Craig Richmond and Erik Herb, arrested him at gunpoint. At the time of his arrest Alemar was carrying a knife and several standard magazines, but there was no ammunition in the magazines, and the pellet rifle – designed to look like an AR-15, could not fire 5.56mm ammunition or any other lethal round, anyway.
Alemar is being held on $50,000 bond, cash-only.
After his arrest, police searched his apartment. They recovered an air pistol that also shoots similar Airsoft pellets and military equipment. Martinsburg police seized the equipment as evidence.
All Guard members and reservists who don’t have any military equipment in their homes and garages, raise your hand.
Alemar is a veteran of operations both in Iraq and Afghanistan. His father stated he believes his son was simply trying to stay in shape for his next assignment, according to the Herald Mail, the area newspaper.
Cops weren’t wrong to stop and search the man. But given the plausible necessity of staying in shape between deployments, the lack of actual weaponry, the fact he had nothing on him that was illegal to carry, and the utter lack of any other circumstantial evidence that the soldier had any ill intent whatsoever, the prosecution for terroristic activities is clearly absurd.
The arrest comes, of course, in the wake of the infamous movie theater shooting last month in Aurora, Colorado – in which the shooter was also dressed in combat gear and wearing a ballistic vest. This shooting was also followed in close succession earlier this by another mass shooting by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple. Law enforcement officers across the country are highly sensitized to potential similar incidents.
That would explain the initial search and detention, of course. But not a prosecution on terrorism charges. There is a deeper context to this particular incident: The Department of Homeland Security, under Janet Napolitano, released a document in 2009 indicating that the DHS was profiling returning veterans as “potential domestic terrorists.” While some veterans and conservative groups objected to the association, others pointed to the case of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, who himself was a veteran of the Gulf War of 1991, and who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, as a retaliation for the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
The report specifically mentions veterans in the following paragraphs:
The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks…
Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities…
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit andradicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.
After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans—including Timothy McVeigh—joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups.
— (U) A prominent civil rights organization reported in 2006 that “large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.”
The FBI noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.
The bottom line: If you’re out doing PT in battle gear – or anything that looks like battle gear, be prepared to be stopped by police wondering what the heck you’re up to.
And just in case you have a dumb District Attorney who’s never served, have a good lawyer on speed dial.