Military Extremists: Nothing to Bragg About

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Like many others, the question of military service and the mass shooting by Wade Page at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin got me curious.

So I simply Googled “military extremism Ft Bragg.”

A fascinating mélange of information surfaced, mainly from the Southern Law Poverty Center, but also from newspapers like Stars and Stripes, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the major daily near where the Sikh shooting took place.

Then-Major Walter Hudson, an Army lawyer, wrote about the topic in 1998, noting that there seemed to have been “an informal network of neo-Nazi skinheads in and around Fort Bragg”:

White supremacists have a natural attraction to the military.  They often see themselves as warriors, superbly fit and well-trained in survivalist techniques and weapons and poised for the ultimate conflict with various races.

I deployed from Fort Bragg, one of the Army’s biggest bases, in 1992 to Somalia, and have had numerous other visits there. But I had forgotten all of the skinhead activity there:

— There was the murder of a black couple in 1995 by a pair of Soldiers, apparently to earn their “spider web tattoos.”

— Nineteen Fort Bragg paratroopers were discharged for participating in neo-Nazi activities.

— Timothy McVeigh tried, and failed, to complete a special-forces course at Fort Bragg, which some authorities believe was the trigger that led him to kill 168 people by detonating a truck bomb he had parked next to the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Subsequently, Congress held hearings, and there was an Army task force on extremism. “The task force, formed Dec. 12, 1995, did find that individuals or small, informal groups of individuals hold extremist views,” a Pentagon summary of the report said. “Allegations or suspicions of widespread, concerted recruitment of soldiers for extremist causes, and participation by soldiers in organized extremist activities, were not substantiated.”

In a 2006 report – a decade after Fort Bragg’s extremists made news – the Southern Poverty Law Center said “large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists continue to infiltrate the ranks of the world’s best-trained, best-equipped fighting force.”

Army officials say they do their best to weed out extremists. But as Sunday’s slaughter in Oak Creek makes all too clear, one extremist in the ranks is one too many.