In case there is any doubt of the kind of country Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla) has in mind for the United States, his administration has hired a company whose CEO supports the Governor’s presidential campaigns and specializes in combat training and uses a former Navy SEAL accused of war crimes as an instructor to train civilian forces, according to a new report.
When DeSantis first activated the State Guard to “help” the National Guard with emergencies two years ago, he was accused of wanting a secret police force. That accusation looks more and more on par, and new revelations about how he is training them add a lot of disturbing weight to the accusations.
Florida has agreed to pay Stronghold SOF Solutions “up to $1.2 million to recruit, vet and train volunteer members of the Florida State Guard, the World War II-era force that DeSantis revived last year to respond to emergencies,” Ana Ceballos and Lawrence Mower reported in the Miami Herald on Friday.
Some members of the state civilian force, aka DeSantis’ secret police being trained for combat by a company that touts the instructor accused of killing civilians and being “perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving,” are now able to make arrests and carry weapons, according to the report. “(I)ts scope has been expanded to allow the state guard to respond to emergencies anywhere in the country, and some members have been granted the ability to make arrests and carry weapons.”
Stronghold SOF Solutions, the company training DeSantis’ secret police, have praised his “you loot, we shoot” slogan and they claim they are preparing future the “warfighter,” which is saying the quiet part out loud.
DeSantis approved the contract with Stronghold during a state emergency he issued, which they point out “could have allowed the state to waive procurement and vetting requirements for vendors.”
These kinds of moves are all about using power to legalize the theft of more power, which is used to hold power in the future. A secret police operating like it’s in a combat war zone certainly would be helpful to silence any dissent and one can imagine them even being deployed as “poll watchers,” which isn’t much of a stretch after the Trump campaign sent their thugs to intimidate poll workers and voters in 2020. DeSantis is Trump but without the national pushback.
The Miami Herald points out that the company has also done work with the Department of Defense, so that’s alarming as well and something that the Biden administration should be addressing, because even as their policing mission is the opposite of the militaristic one evinced by Republicans, the DOD isn’t training civilian forces. But we don’t need anyone in national defense to be trained by a company that hired and is proud of Eddie Gallagher’s “evil” behavior while in Iraq.
Gallagher is a former Navy SEAL embraced by Donald Trump, who “was court martialed for shooting at civilians from a sniper’s post and murdering a defenseless captive in Iraq.”
The platoon leader turned in by his own platoon, who reported that he shot not only civilians and “stabbed a defenseless prisoner to death,” but according to The New York Times, “was perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving.”
“The guy is freaking evil,” Special Operator Miller told investigators. “The guy was toxic,” Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper, said in a separate interview. “You could tell he was perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving,” Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, told the investigators,” the Times reported in December of 2019. They continued:
“Platoon members said they saw Chief Gallagher shoot civilians and fatally stab a wounded captive with a hunting knife. Chief Gallagher was acquitted by a military jury in July of all but a single relatively minor charge, and was cleared of all punishment in November by Mr. Trump.”
We’ve all witnessed the militarization and weaponization of law enforcement under Trump during his four years as president, but this shouldn’t be confused with support for law enforcement as we also witnessed Trump incite his own supporters to attack law enforcement protecting the U.S. Capitol on January 6th in an attempted self-coup. This suggests that it’s not just a militarization of civilian forces, but a militarization of civilian forces that agree with the fascist leadership style of the executive, be that person Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott. The individual doesn’t matter; this is the model of the authoritarian push coming from the Right around the globe.
“Ron DeSantis plans Florida paramilitary force outside federal control,” The Guardian reported in 2021 of the State Guard DeSantis activated.
It was too much for some military veterans, who quit over its “militia-like focus.”
The Herald wrote that while it was “unclear how many State Guard members have been recruited, vetted and trained by the company, if any, but a state database shows a payment of $300,000 last month for work related to the State Guard. Records show the state has also authorized spending more than $217,000 on ammunition for the State Guard… during its first training at Florida National Guard headquarters in June, military veterans quit over its militia-like focus.”
The Republican Governor requested nearly $100 million for the new State Guard force in March of this year, citing a vision of deploying them via planes and boats with police powers.
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