Former Army soldier Ethan Melzer was sentenced to more than four decades in prison for an attempted plot to ambush and kill his comrades in a “jihadi attack” while deployed abroad.
Melzer pleaded guilty in June 2022 to charges of attempted murder of U.S. Army soldiers, illegally sharing national security information and providing and attempting to provide terrorists with material support. Melzer, who held the rank of private while in the Army, was a member of the Order of Nine Angles, a Neo-Nazi and Satanic organization which has praised both Adolf Hitler and al-Qaeda. According to the Department of Justice, Melzer schemed to ambush soldiers at a base in Turkey, aiming to “cripple” the base’s fire teams and cause a mass casualty attack.
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Melzer, who also goes by the name Etil Reggad, joined the Army in 2018. The Department of Justice described his enlistment as an infiltration. Melzer, a private, was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which was deployed to Italy. In 2020 he was told he would be transferred to a “sensitive” base in Turkey, which is when he allegedly began plotting the attack. He was arrested in May 2020 while in Italy, before he could carry it out.
“Ethan Melzer infiltrated the U.S. Army in service of a neo-Nazi, white supremacist and jihadist group,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said in a Department of Justice release on the sentencing. “He used his membership in the military to pursue an appalling goal: the brutal murder of his fellow U.S. service members in a carefully plotted ambush. By unlawfully disclosing his unit’s location, strength, and armaments to other O9A members and jihadists in furtherance of this ambush, Melzer traitorously sought to attack the very soldiers he was entrusted to protect.”
According to the Department of Justice, Melzer, 24, communicated not only with O9A members but also alleged members of al-Qaeda. As part of his plot, he planned on sharing additional security details of the base once in Turkey in order to maximize damage done in an attack.
As of the sentencing, Melzer is no longer a part of the Army, although it is not immediately clear when between his guilty plea and now he was discharged.
The military has been dealing with an extremism problem for years, specifically far-right extremism, which has garnered increased attention recently. Besides Melzer and O9A, the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen — whose leader was arrested for plotting to attack Baltimore’s energy grid — and other groups have tried to recruit active-duty and veteran service members or have their own members join the military for training. Last year a former member of an Air Force security team was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a police officer in the name of sparking a second civil war. This week a former member of the Ohio National Guard was sentenced to six years in prison for manufacturing ghost guns and making threats against Jewish schools and synagogues. He had been quietly discharged from the Ohio National Guard last year after his arrest, Military.com reported.
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