Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Arizona National Guard: An expose of abuses, including paintballing homeless

The Arizona Republic turned over the rock at the Arizona National Guard and a bunch of bad things crawled out. Among them are the usual offenses like "sexual abuse, enlistment improprieties, forgery, firearms violations, embezzlement, and assaults." But this sick stuff really caught my attention: "Bum hunts" — Thirty to 35 times in 2007-08, Sgt. 1st ...

Flickr
Flickr
Flickr

The Arizona Republic turned over the rock at the Arizona National Guard and a bunch of bad things crawled out. Among them are the usual offenses like "sexual abuse, enlistment improprieties, forgery, firearms violations, embezzlement, and assaults."

But this sick stuff really caught my attention:

"Bum hunts" -- Thirty to 35 times in 2007-08, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Amerson, a former "Recruiter of the Year," drove new cadets and prospective enlistees through Phoenix's Sunnyslope community in search of homeless people.

The Arizona Republic turned over the rock at the Arizona National Guard and a bunch of bad things crawled out. Among them are the usual offenses like "sexual abuse, enlistment improprieties, forgery, firearms violations, embezzlement, and assaults."

But this sick stuff really caught my attention:

"Bum hunts" — Thirty to 35 times in 2007-08, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Amerson, a former "Recruiter of the Year," drove new cadets and prospective enlistees through Phoenix’s Sunnyslope community in search of homeless people.

Military investigators were told that Amerson wore his National Guard uniform and drove a government vehicle marked with recruiting insignia as he and other soldiers — some still minors — shot transients with paintballs or got them to perform humiliating song-and-dance routines in return for money. During some of these so-called "bum hunts," female recruits said, they were ordered to flash their breasts at transients. Homeless women, conversely, were offered food, money or drinks for showing their breasts.

Amerson, during military interviews, denied paintball assaults but admitted to some wrongdoing. He was demoted to private and given an other-than-honorable discharge. Amerson declined to be interviewed for this story except to say that allegations against him were untrue.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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