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Charlottesville Murder Suspect James Alex Fields May Be A Veteran, But He Was Never A Soldier
The Department of Defense Manpower Data Center may list James Alex Fields, Jr., as having served on active duty in the U.S. Army, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean he was a soldier.
The 20-year-old Kentucky native was booked and charged on Aug. 12 with one count of second-degree murder and three counts of malicious wounding, among others, after allegedly targeted protesters with his car amid violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, VA that day, the Washington Post reports. The attack left one dead and 19 injured, five critically; video shows a 2010 Dodge Challenger, later identified as registered to Fields, accelerating into a crowd of bystanders on a pedestrian mall.
Shortly after the incident, as media outlets rushed to piece together whatever they could on the hit-and-run, Mediaite reported that Fields had served in the Army for less than four months, from August 18th to December 11th, 2015 (a Facebook post from his mother marks his arrival at boot camp).
"The Army can confirm that James Alex Fields reported for basic military training in August of 2015," Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson told Task & Purpose in a statement. "He was, however, released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015. As a result, he was never awarded a military occupational skill nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic training."
A mass attacker’s military background can often fuel media stereotypes about violent veterans. Wade Michael Page, who killed four people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, served from 1992 to 1998. Aaron Alexis, who killed 13 people at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013, was an aviation electrician's mate at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth from 2007 to 2011. And in 2016, Army veteran Micah Johnson shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas. More than a third of the 43 worst mass killings in the U.S. since 1984 were carried out by military veterans.
But it’s worth noting that this logic doesn’t necessarily apply to the case of Fields. Though Fields may technically qualify as a veteran for lasting more than 90 days in the armed forces, he was barely even a soldier: he never recieved an MOS, never felt loyalty to a unit outside of basic. His Army career is worth exactly nothing.
The Army clearly didn’t make Fields a war machine; according to media reports, was Nazi-obsessed long before he ever set foot in a barracks. A former high school teacher of Fields’ told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the boy, who expressed “radical idea on race” during his time as his student, had “wanted to join the Army, but couldn’t because of his mental health history.”
“He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler,” the teacher, Derek Weimer, told the Herald-Leader. “He also had a huge military history, especially with German military history and World War II. But, he was pretty infatuated with that stuff.” (A classmate of Fields’ suggested to the New York Times that his obsession with Nazis stretched back to middle school).
This is, frankly, unsurprising, and it helps knock down the subtle media narrative of the unstable U.S. service member ravaged by PTSD and ready to explode. After all, Wade Michael Page was a white supremacist who targeted Sikhs, a group often mistaken for Muslims; Aaron Alexis had severe mental health issues long before his service, so far that he thought his rifle was speaking to him; and Micah Johnson was a black militant intent on bringing down what he perceived as a racist police state. Like Fields, none of their motivating ideologies were molded by the Pentagon.
But unlike these other psychos, Fields apparently didn’t even make it through basic training; for the last several months, he’s been living with his mother in Ohio, according to the New York Times. He may have had his head shaved on that hot day in August 2015 when he arrived for his first day in Army, but nothing about his time in the military suggests that he ever even came close to being considered a soldier, let alone a man — and his alleged hit-and-run on Aug. 12 only proves it.
UPDATE: The article has been updated with a statement from the U.S. Army. (Updated 8/13/17, 9:50 pm ET).
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."
After a year and a half since the Army took delivery on the first of its souped-up new version of the M1 Abrams main battle tank, the Pentagon's Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio is ramping up to deliver the service's first full brigade of upgraded warhorses to bring the pain downrange.