Charlottesville Murder Suspect James Alex Fields May Be A Veteran, But He Was Never A Soldier

news

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).

WATCH NEXT: 

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."

"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.

"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."

Read More Show Less
(Photo courtesy of Philip Stackhouse)

Former Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn will plead not guilty to a charge of murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed Afghan man whom a tribal leader had identified as a Taliban bomb maker, his attorney said.

Golsteyn will be arraigned on Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.

No date has been set for his trial yet, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Read More Show Less
Taran Tactical Innovations

John Wick is back, and he's here to stay. It doesn't matter how many bad guys show up to try to collect on that bounty.

With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the titular hitman, played by 54-year-old Keanu Reeves, continues on a blood-soaked hyper-stylized odyssey of revenge: first for his slain dog, then his wrecked car, then his destroyed house, then ... well, honestly it's hard to keep track of exactly what Wick is avenging by this point, or the body count he's racked up in the process.

Though we do know that the franchise has raked in plenty of success at the box office: just a week after it's May 17 release, the third installment in director Chad Stahleski's series took in roughly $181 million, making it even more successful than its two wildly popular prequels 2014's John Wick, and 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2.

And, more importantly, Reeves' hitman is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest action movie heroes in recent memory. Few (if any) other action flicks have succeeded in creating a mind-blowing avant garde ballet out of a dozen well-dressed gunmen who get shot, choked, or stabbed with a pencil by a pissed off hitman who just wants to return to retirement.

But for all the over-the-top acrobatics, fight sequences, and gun-porn (see: the sommelier), what makes the series so enthralling, especially for the service members and vets in the audience, is that there are some refreshing moments of realism nestled under all of that gun fu. Wrack your brain and try to remember the last time you saw an action hero do a press check during a shootout, clear a jam, or actually, you know, reload, instead of just hip-firing 300 rounds from an M16 nonstop. It's cool, we'll wait.

As it turns out, there's a good reason for the caliber of gun-play in John Wick. One of the franchise's secret weapons is a professional three-gun shooter named Taran Butler, who told Task & Purpose he can draw and hit three targets in 0.67 seconds from 10 yards. And if you've watched any of the scores of videos he's uploaded to social media over the years, it's pretty clear that this isn't idle boasting.

Read More Show Less

The Navy's electromagnetic railgun is undergoing what officials described as "essentially a shakedown" of critical systems before finally installing a tactical demonstrator aboard a surface warship, the latest sign that the once-beleaguered supergun may actually end up seeing combat.

That pretty much means this is could be the last set of tests before actually slapping this bad boy onto a warship, for once.

Read More Show Less
(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

The Justice Department has accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of illegally using campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with five women.

Hunter, who fought in the Iraq War as a Marine artillery officer, and his wife Margaret were indicated by a federal jury on Aug. 21, 2018 for allegedly using up to $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

In a recent court filing, federal prosecutors accused Hunter of using campaign money to pay for a variety of expenses involved with his affairs, ranging from a $1,008 hotel bill to $7 for a Sam Adams beer.

Read More Show Less