A day with the Missouri Citizens Militia – Lakenewsonline.com

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Both Decker and Sacco disagree with the label of “anti-government” and reiterated they are not planning an attempt to overthrow the government at any level, nor do they fear the government coming to take away their guns or infringe on their Second Amendment rights, at least not in Missouri.

Under new leadership, both at the state level and in the Lake of the Ozarks region, the Missouri Citizens Militia is hoping to change what the group considers to be inaccurate perceptions about what they do, who they are and what they stand for.

From anti-government groups in Oregon and Nevada to unrest in Ferguson, Mo. where a far-right, anti-government patriot militia known as the “Oath Keepers” attempted to patrol streets and caused tension between both protestors and police forces, recent incidents in past years involving stand-downs between federal and state government agencies and anti-government militia groups have projected staunch Second Amendment-defenders back into the national spotlight.

“We have rules and expectations. We don’t tolerate or condone violence. Everybody is welcome regardless of race, gender, political or religious beliefs,” Nick Sacco, the commanding officer of Region Nine of the Missouri Citizens’ Militia which encompasses the Tri-County Lake area, said. “We don’t tolerate any hate speech or support overthrowing the government. We support all of our local law enforcement, armed service men and women and emergency personnel.”

Sacco, who lives in Brumley, served in the United States Marine Corps, along with right-hand man “Major Sergeant Tom”, also of the Brumley area and the USMC, were recently appointed the top commanders of one of the unorganized militia’s dozen regions. Sacco invited the Lake Sun to one of their public training sessions held earlier this month to learn about the group.

“Most people think we’re a bunch of drunk rednecks out running around shooting in the words,” Sacco said. “It’s a challenge to overcome.”

Unlike other militia groups, both in Missouri and throughout the country, the MCM does not collect dues or enforce requirements such as previous law enforcement, emergency services or military experience. They describe themselves as a non-political organization and do not classify as a not-for-profit business or LLC company. The militia is classified as “unorganized” under Missouri State Statute.

Basically anybody, “able-bodied” as young as 17-years-of-age with parental consent, is free to join, except convicted felons who can not participate in any of the groups armed training. Alcohol is never allowed at training sessions, the group’s bylaws state.

The MCM was formed in 2010 by Aaron Penberthy, but is now directed by General Officer Jeremy Decker, who resides in a small town on the border of Osage and Maries counties and hosts statewide weekend-long training exercises at his private compound on the Gasconade River where his family also owns a commercial campground.

Decker, the son of a Vietnam veteran, attended the recent training with his wife Julie, the official administrator of the MCM, and son Isaiah, one of its youngest members, to welcome the new regions’ members personally.

There were only four other members present on this sunny Saturday morning, but Sacco said the region probably has close to 20 active members, many of whom work full-time jobs, including weekends, making it difficult to show up on short notice, unlike when the regions gather every 90 days for statewide training.

For the first part of training, Major Sergeant Tom led the new recruits, now armed with customized ArmaLite AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, on basic marching, feet positioning, gun placement and saluting techniques. None of the rifles were loaded or chambered; magazines out and safeties on.

When later inquiring about firearms, Decker is quick to point out that the “AR” in AR-15 stands for ArmaLite Rifle, the company who made it, and not ‘assault rife’, as most people wrongly assume, he says, and even Google when he audibly inquires through his smartphone.

“I know you might be thinking this is chicken s!@#,” Major Sergeant Tom tells the recruits, but says quietly he knows most of these men have never marched before. “But details matter. I need to know I can trust you, that you will listen and obey my commands, because I don’t want to get shot.”

Though it’s clear not all members have former military experience, including Decker, each member seems to be able to contribute in one way or another by offering some sort of expertise in medical treatment, survival or sustainability skills, self-defense, firearm maintenance or in Decker’s case, organizational leadership. On this day, a young Miller County firefighter, MCM’s Captain Aaron Quinton offered a class in first-aid and a basic medical field guide.

While Quinten used the men for demonstrations on pressuring wounds, dressing injuries and basic medical field tactics, Decker and Sacco exchanged ideas on whether or not the MCM should require members to carry basic items like water canteens, army-issue surgical packs, ammunition belts and other armed survivalist-related items during the statewide training sessions.

The group looks out for each other and their families, what’s discussed between MCM members at meetings stays at meetings, but they also maintain an active presence in their communities, hosting food, toy and clothes drives for those in need and hunting and scouting training for local kids, the men said.

Decker tells the group, who are mostly dressed in camouflage fatigues and straddled with handguns and hunting knifes, that the MCM abides to its ten core principles, most of which Sacco has already explained prior to the trio’s arrival.

Among them, but first and foremost, the deeply held conviction that upholding the Second Amendment, which states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” is the ultimate essence of United States’ citizens guaranteed, unalienable rights.

The Second Amendment is the heart of the Bill of Rights, pumping oxygen to the rest of the amendments, and without that promise, which the MCM has taken the oath to protect against from all enemies both foreign and domestic, the document is just a piece of paper, Decker explains.

Militia members must be cognizant of how they appear both in public and online, given militias’ reputations, they must hold themselves to a higher standard, Sacco and Decker tell them.

Decker said there are some camouflage designs and colors he simply won’t wear having not served in the military. The one he has chosen is a soft green and beige, perfect for Ozarks country, but doesn’t require his fellow members to have a specific uniform, though they do have an official “MCM” patch.

He also wears another patch, “III%”, which some members appear to be affiliated, a reference to a national patriotic movement created in 2008, classified as having similar ideology to the “Oath Keepers”, the “Three Percenters,” is an an ode to the approximately 3 percent of the original 13 colonies’ population that took up arms in the American Revolutionary War. There is also discussion of the “Oathkeepers,” more specifically their active online forums, though it’s unclear if any of the members are officially affiliated.

Though the group says it has no official political stances and discourages members from talking about politics at meetings, recent current events triggered conversations that gave a perspective into how some of the white, middle-aged, rural members view the state of international and domestic affairs.

“Obama wiped his a!@ with the Constitution,” one unidentified member says. “But Trump scares the s!@# out of the me. The bombing of Syria scares me.”

Most of the views expressed by members on this day would arguably fall under the Libertarian, Tea Party or Constitutionally-Conservative political spectrums, rather than the right-wing conservative label normally applied by independent researchers and labeled as so in most media reports, which members have grown to generally mistrust due to what they interpret as unfair characterizations.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an American non-profit legal advocacy organization that specializes in civil rights and the tracking of anti-government extremism, hate groups, and domestic terrorism, reports that the “anti-government militia movement” was spurred by the election of former President Barack Obama in 2008 when only 42 of these groups were identified.

In 2011, that number peaked at 334 before declining in recent years and again rising in recent years due to national racial unrest and anti-government militia federal land occupations on the west coast, according to SPLC reports and data available from 2011 to 2016.

It’s important to note that the SPLC’s, “Intelligence Project”, widely considered a leading researcher on the topic though also challenged on some controversial labeling, identified 165 militias in the country as anti-government patriot groups in 2016, including the MCM, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters and a dozen others in Missouri. Though, the SPCL’s listing does come with the caveat that the label “does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, or are racist.”

According to the report, “Generally groups define themselves as opposed to the “New World Order,” engage in conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines… This list was compiled from field reports, group publications, the Internet, law enforcement sources and news reports.”

Both Decker and Sacco disagree with the label of “anti-government” and reiterated they are not planning an attempt to overthrow the government at any level, nor do they fear the government coming to take away their guns or infringe on their Second Amendment rights, at least not in Missouri.

“The government is not that stupid,” Decker said. “I truly believe that would be the only way this country would be headed for another civil war.”

In fact, the men said, they’ve gone to the point of removing people from the group who have espoused anti-government propaganda, racist rants and overtly conspiratorial views. All prospective members are monitored on various social media outlets and online forums and the MCM also runs their profiles through the National Sex Offender Registry and other law enforcement registries to weed out potential problematic members, Decker and Sacco said.

“I didn’t just wake up one day and want to join a militia. When I read the ten principles of the MCM — those, for the most part, we’re already things I believed in, things I already identified my character with,” Quinton said, after his first aid course was finished.

On the contrary, Decker said the goal of the group is to be able to help communities, working with local government agencies, in the time of an emergency, like other militias that have been successfully deployed to cities affected by natural disasters to help with search and rescue efforts and community rebuilding.

“We have no interest in riot patrol and we’re not bounty hunters,” Decker said. “Even some of our training, we’ve gone away from clearing houses, because realistically we’ve never going to be called in for that. We focus on safe weapons training, survival and sustainability techniques, search and rescue and first aide.”

Decker said the militia needs to be called in by the county sheriff or a local fire protection district, as Missouri designates the Missouri National Guard as its official state defense force. The group has reached out to several sheriffs, police chiefs and fire chiefs, and most have been supportive, but are skeptical to use their services based on how militias are generally perceived and fear of public backlash.

Sacco said he hopes to have face-to-face meetings with Lake area officials in the future in the hopes of convincing them otherwise in the event of a community disaster that may need additional manpower for whatever services are needed to help citizens.

Decker said the public school system in place today barely addresses and downplays the role local militias played in the foundation of the United States of America.

The Gadsden flag – a coiled snake ready to strike with the words, “Don’t tread on me,” which originated in the 1750’s as a symbol of early colonial ideals of individual liberty and freedom from foreign rule – has been hijacked by politicians of the libertarianism and Tea Party movement, diluting its original anti-political and patriotic message, Decker said.

There are different reasons why citizens may take an oath to join an active militia, but these men seem to have several things in common, either by nature or through this particular group. They are fishermen and hunters, manual laborers, armed services veterans and weapons enthusiasts. They believe in individual freedom, limited government intervention and a regimented camaraderie-based lifestyle.

They relish a significant period of this nation’s history, and yearn for a reality, that in their eyes, no longer seems to exist.

“The Bill of Rights is just a paper. The government does not guarantee those rights. The people, the patriots of this country do,” Decker said.