Dealing with the militia: advice for the Sheriff in the Oregon Standoff

by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium
Sheriff David Ward with Oregon Militia leader Ammon Bundy. -photo from The Oregonian.

Sheriff David Ward with Oregon Militia leader Ammon Bundy. Ward has done everything right so far in dealing with the militia, but may need help from the state in the near future. -photo from KOIN6.

In regards to the Bundy Militia in Oregon, which have occupied a game reserve in protest of the BLM, the county sheriff there has done everything right. The following is an examination of what he has done and a recommendation of how to conduct himself as the stand off continues.

 

But first, for those of you living under a rock, here is what has happened so far. Father and son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond have returned to prison for their roles in an alleged arson that happened on federal land in Oregon. They served prison time previously, but the US Attorney, arguing that they were not required to serve the mandatory minimum sentence, successfully petitioned for the longer term and her appeal was upheld. Right or wrong, the Hammonds are returning to jail rather than create a fuss.

 

In protest, Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and a few followers have taken over a game reserve in Oregon with armed militia. There hasn’t been any violence yet, but the militia seems determined to occupy as long as it takes. Their stated goal is to have the federal government return federal land back to the control of the state. They’ve got a long-standing grudge against Bureau of Land Management, the BLM. You may remember that these are the militia that successfully ran off BLM agents in Nevada after the agents seized cattle owned by Cliven Bundy. The militia’s argument with the BLM may have some legitimacy. Their actions in taking of federal land in protest are not. The Harney County Sheriff was right to ask the militia to leave and we applaud his efforts.

 

David Ward, the Harney County Sheriff, has already met with Bundy and has offered him and his folks free passage out of the park where they are encamped. The meeting they had seemed amicable, but Bundy flat out refused his offer. So the stand off continues.

 

Ward is correct in his belief that he is ultimately responsible for the safety of his county. He is the lowest elected official in that area and he has the authority and responsibility to act at that level. We applaud his efforts and have recommendations as to how he is to conduct himself in the future.

 

We feel that that local law enforcement, while they have the authority to act, may not have the means to act given that they are faced with an unknown number of armed militia. The sheriff might not have the manpower to deal with the situation while at the same time continuing to patrol his county. He may need help. We feel that a call for National Guard troops at this time may be appropriate.

 

Commander of the 1186 MP company is congratulated on a successful mission by his Adjutant General. Military Police companies like the 1186 may be the right fit to deal with a lawless Oregon militia. -photo from The Oregonian.

Commander of the 1186 MP company is congratulated on a successful mission by his Adjutant General. Military Police companies like the 1186 may be the right fit to deal with a lawless Oregon militia. -photo from The Oregonian.

We don’t agree with popular radio personalities who have claimed it is necessary to use National Guard to “shoot and kill” ranchers occupying the wild life refuge. We do think that a unit of National Guard, showing up in armored Humvees and wearing full battle rattle would be a significant show of force to convince the remaining holdouts to leave. We feel that a military police company would be the best unit given the situation to be the tip of the spear.

 

The Bundys think they are the militia. They are not. They are armed ranchers operating in violation of the law. The Official militia of that state Is the Oregon National Guard, acting with the authority of the Governor of that state. The Bundys and their supporters don’t even live there! A military police company activated by the governor in support of the sheriff would be appropriate to maintain law and order and preserve the integrity of the park. As a state asset, they have literally no dog in the fight other than to preserve law and order. An appearance by federal authorities like the ATF or FBI would be seen as an attack and would undoubtedly end badly. An appearance of Battle Hardened National Guard troops would be a significant show of force, but would also be seen as less hostile than the FBI. The Bundys would be foolish to mess with them.

 

It just so happens we have recommendations as to which units to choose for this task. Research shows that the state of Oregon has a numbered Military Police company recently returned from Afghanistan, the 1186 MP Company. Under the leadership of an experienced commander, in concert with the local sheriff, this is the kind of unit I would employ. MPs can speak the language of law enforcement and would work well with the sheriff’s office. It makes sense that they be employed.

 

An individual numbered company doesn’t have as staff to help plan their operations. You need an experienced staff and commander at battalion or brigade level to help them. Oregon has such an element in the form of their 82th Troop Command Brigade. A troop command is a good choice to be the MP company’s higher headquarters in this situation because they are good at dealing with a mish-mash of different battalions and companies, they have an experienced Colonel in command, and he has a staff that is experienced at war gaming and planning. The troop command staff can plan the op, provide logistical support, task other units in support of the MPs and provide oversight. They can operate a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) 24/7 and keep the state Adjutant General and the governor apprised of the day-to-day operations. We feel this is a good fit for this situation.

 

Once employed, what would the National Guard do? If I was the commander, I would roll up to the wildlife center in a column of uparmored Humvees and set up camp right in the front yard of the Bundy militia. An experienced company commander knows how to conduct bilateral negotiations with foreign nationals in theater; he will have an easier time negotiating with militia, and he won’t even need an interpreter! I would set up a permanent radio relay point at the refuge. Four guys with a radio, a Humvee and a tent to monitor the situation there. They would operate 24/7 and be a release valve for the militia, constantly in contact and constantly monitoring.

 

The MP commander would set up shop off sight. He would have a TOC close enough to respond to the refuge with a quick reaction force if need be, but not so close that they would be in danger of attack by the armed militia. Once established, the commander would set up daily patrols of every acre of that park monitoring the activities of the militia. Any person attempting to build fortified battle positions on the park would be arrested. No digging of fighting positions, no obstacle emplacement, nothing. Anybody seen to be attempting to arm the refuge for a long-term siege would be taken into custody by the MPs and turned over to the sheriff. There would be strict shoot, don’t shoot criteria set up for the MPs to prevent any bloodshed, but the MPs would be given the ability to defend themselves if need be.

 

Once established, the MP commander would escort the sheriff onto the property for daily meetings with the militia. I would offer an ultimatum to Bundy. Leave or be arrested, and I would give him a time line, one month perhaps. Up until the deadline, if no crime is committed, the militia would be free to go. After the deadline, charges for disobeying a lawful order and trespassing. And then you lay siege. You let people out, but you forbid any new elements in. No food, no water, nothing.

 

Militia loves the idea of an armed martyrdom for liberty. They’re much less happy if their armed Armageddon is replaced with a boring and painful siege. A dispirited militia would eventually erode when there is nothing to eat and drink. Numbers will dwindle and eventually, a manageable handful of the hard-core supporters will remain. You might even get a full surrender and abandonment of the park.

 

If you go in there guns blazing, as Montel Williams has suggested, you give the militia what they want, civil war. Martyrs will gain sympathy from other supporters elsewhere in the country and you will compound the problem. People will die and it will be ugly. If you send the local state sanctioned militia, the National Guard, along with the local sheriff, you give your cause legitimacy and support for the Bundys, which is already quite low, will fall away.

Sheriff Ward has set the right tone with his actions so far in dealing with the Bundys. If he takes my advice and seeks out the council and support of the local National Guard leaders, I think he will be happier than if he tried to go it alone with the assets he has. Let the state Adjutant General and the Governor help you. Avoid direct clashes and loss of life. If you do this, you will look like the hero and you will have upheld your oath to protect the citizens of your county. Good luck!

 

Further reading:

https://www.rt.com/usa/328231-oregon-militia-bundy-sheriff-standoff/

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-cliven-bundy-fines-20160107-story.html

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/whats-next-for-the-armed-militiamen-in-oregon/

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/82tc.htm

http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2012/10/oregon_national_guard_holds_de.html

Captain Jeremy Griffith in Baghdad 2007

Captain Jeremy Griffith in Baghdad 2007

Jeremy Griffith is a retired Captain who served in units of the National Guard and Army Reserve. He has been a battle captain serving in support of Operation Caregiver and provided a security detail in support of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis in 2008. His last posting was as a team leader for trainer mentors in a training support battalion stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

 

 

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