Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The "Special Army Unit" Story--BOGUS

UPDATED:  Please see the end of this post for additional confirmation.

Another conspiracy has gone viral on Twitter, this one regarding a "special army unit" to be deployed on American soil just before the November midterms.  The tweets link to a blog citing an unnamed source in the "military," and the blogger speculates on whether the unit would obey an order to open fire on US citizens.

The unit in question is the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force (CBRNE stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive incidents). It is a combat support unit originally comprised of about 4,700 soldiers (not the 80,000 troops cited in the blog), and its capabilities include SAR, decontamination, medical/MEDEVAC, aviation, communications and logistics support.  At full strength in 2011, the unit could have as many as 20,000 troops, with three task forces:  Task Force Operations, Task Force Medical and Task Force Aviation.  While it's part of a combat unit and therefore receives some combat training, its mission is not warfighting--it's support. In a domestic deployment, its role would be to provide support for local and state first responders in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.  The only combat-level training it receives is in self defense and non-lethal crowd control, which includes beanbag bullets, spike strip deployment and roadblock construction.

It is important to remember that the use of active duty military units in domestic police enforcement was severely restricted by passage of the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878.  The law expressly prohibits active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and federalized National Guard troops from acting in a law enforcement role, unless that role is expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress.

News of the unit's stand-up on 1 October 2008 received considerable scrutiny from bloggers and media outlets, ranging from The Cato Institute to CNN.  The wiki link above includes a section on the "Sea Smurfs."

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next right wing nutcase, but this one is all about nothing.  For starters, this is a disaster response unit.  It's not a peace keeping force, and the Posse Comitatus restrictions are clear.  Second, even at full projected strength, the unit is one-fourth the size noted in the rumors.  Third, none of the three task forces have combat or traditional law enforcement roles.

Extra Point:  The unit has little (if any) lethal force capability, so even if a mob has to be subdued, it's going to be done so using beanbags and/or tear gas--the same tools police use to control angry mobs of anarchists and "peace activists" at leftwing demonstrations.

UPDATE (04/15/10):  Yesterday, I spoke with Lt. Commander Gary Ross, Public Affairs Officer for HQ Northcom, asking for clarification and correction of any known factual errors contained in the Examiner blog post.  LT CMDR Ross referred me to Don Manuszewski, Chief, Office of Public Affairs for US Army North, Ft. Sam Houston.

In a telephone interview with me this morning, Mr. Manuszewski confirmed the accuracy of my description of the unit's makeup organization and mission. Mr. Manuszewski stated that the Sea Smurf unit in question is not a combat unit, that it is not scheduled to deploy and that the original Army Times story that formed the genesis of this rumor was in error.    He then emailed me a link to a corrected Army Times story. The correction is found at the bottom of the page and (surprisingly) isn't mentioned by any of the blogs or media outlets propagating the rumor:

A non-lethal crowd control package fielded to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, described in the original version of this story, is intended for use on deployments to the war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated.
So, not only will the the troops that are deployed domestically not have lethal weaponry, they won't even have the non-lethal packages of bean bags, spike strips and roadblocks.

Mr. Manuszewski noted to me that the Sea Smurfs have been deployed domestically very recently--to Southeast Texas in response to 2008's Hurricane Ike, where they performed such threatening duties as logistics, operations management and medical support.While the Ike deployment date precedes the unit's formal stand-up date, they were deployed nonetheless.  Photos are herehere, and here.

"We have spent quite a bit of time trying to contact bloggers and media outlets to correct the inaccuracies," said Manuszewski.  "The Sea Smurfs are a well trained, well equipped hard working unit, as are all of our troops. We appreciate your help in correcting inaccuracies and stopping some of these rumors.  We know times are tough and people are worried, but they don't need to be scared of the Sea Smurfs."

I agree. Cased closed.

Welcome My Pet Jawa Readers!  Thanks to Rusty for the linkage.

Thanks also to Confederate Yankee's Bob Owens.


Anonymous said...

thanks for putting another rumor to rest

Anonymous said...

And you believe the 16,000 IRS agents are just to hand out Credits also I bet...

Sorry, Look it up on C-SPAN. Story is for real.

David L. said...

Sorry, Don. I've done my legwork and checked my sources carefully. Also, my military sources are named and on the record. The original blog piece cited an unnamed local radio talk show host, who happened to have an unnamed source in the military. The original blog piece also cited an inaccurate Army Times story and failed to address the correction posted by that organization.

The only things out there are unsourced, speculative blog pieces filled with errors and misleading information. Show me a legitimate source, willing to go on the record. Show me a factually correct news story or blog post.

Anyone can check my sources. Can I check theirs?

DanFromMo said...

unit in question is not a combat unit...

excuse... excuse... revised story...

Only in War Zone, not U.S.

These people remind me of the folks who did not see the housing crisis coming. Focused on their own little world. Orders are Orders. It will be too late after it is too late. Just answer me why Obama needs his civilian army, as big and well funded as our Military?

David L. said...

Dan, that "Ready Reserve" corps in Obamacare is not new:

Ready Reserve over 60 years old

This section of ObamaCare modifies it yet again, mainly in terms of funding. It’s not a great surprise that a bill that seeks to increase the federal government’s role in health care would also seek to expand or at least redefine its emergency response agencies. Even if this was a “private health-care army,” though, it would be a woefully underfunded one with a $12.5 million annual budget. The state of Minnesota alone will spend $1.8 billion on public safety in its biennial budget, with a good portion of that on law enforcement. is not a left wing site, either. It's one of the most respected conservative blogs on the net.

I can't stand Obama, and I am as pissed as anyone about his take-over-everything agenda. But these scare stories about private armies and deploying combat troops on American soil have all the credibility of your average UFO report.

Anonymous said...


Good and accurate blogpost. There's an awful lot of folks who seem to forget that the US Military swears an oath to protect the Constitution of these United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. It doesn't swear allegiance or loyalty to any president or political party.

I simply cannot imagine any serving officer, or members of his command, supporting the sorts of actions these lunatics and conspiracy nuts seem so willing to believe.

That crap only happens in Hollywood and TV movies, and the fevered dreams of conspiracy kooks on both sides of the political spectrum.


David L. said...

It's also worth noting that the alleged 80,000 is the equivalent of about four whole divisions. By way of context, that's about three to four times the size of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq...

Six said...

Thanks for this story. There's a lot of panic and wild stories flying around out there. We need to be vigilant but that also means being vigilant about nonsense that might distract us from the really important stuff.
Good work.

Anonymous said...

"It is important to remember that the use of active duty military units in domestic police enforcement was severely restricted by passage of the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878. The law expressly prohibits active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and federalized National Guard troops from acting in a law enforcement role, unless that role is expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress."
I heard this rumor and asked for proof or debunk. Thanks for doing the leg work. You can't blame people for taking rumors and running with them. People still remember Waco, Ruby Ridge, (2ond)Wounded Knee, Kent State, and a fully armed S.W.A.T team going into a private residence to take custody of a five year old Cuban boy. No one believes the government cover-up stories in these instances so it is easy to see why they would believe a rumor like this.

Anonymous said...

Anyone that believes the governement will stay within the confines of the law, particularly the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878, does not remember Kent State University, or are not watching Chicago with the violence they are experencing. The governement that is to serve the people ordered the use of military force against the people.
If the government is so law biding, why does the dollar bill have the words "Federal Reverve Note", when Article 1 Sec 8 state "Congress shall have the power to coin money" not a private bank? People are more complacent now than at any other time, which makes me wonder, why do people trust an entity that makes them live in fear of the entity?

David L. said...

One thing is for certain--bring up and destroy any cockamamie conspiracy theory like this one, and it is only a matter of time before one of the theory's adherents starts talking about the Fed, the Rothschilds, the New World Order, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group. Then it's on to how 9/11 could have been an inside job; how President Obama was really born in Kenya; and how the North Koreans were the ones who blew up and sank the Deepwater Horizon. Good lord, is there no end to the fantasies?

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