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From Tenn.

to Times Square, military recruiting


centers prove easy targets

A police officer ducks under tape near a memorial in front of an Armed Forces Career
Center on Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP John Bazemore)

By Michael E. Miller-July 17

Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez may have wanted to die, but he nonetheless


appeared to have planned his last acts carefully particularly the target for
his hatred.
On Thursday morning, the 24-year-old swung a silver Ford Mustang convertible into
one of Chattanoogas many strip malls.
This one, however, was different. Between an Italian restaurant and a cellphone
shop hung a neon sign emblazoned with the American flag. Beneath it, window upon
window advertised every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. To the left, an Army soldier
was portrayed patrolling some desert country. To the right, the glass was etched with
the insignia of the Marines. And in the middle stood a phrase that seemed to
encapsulate them all: Heroes Dont Brag.
It was Chattanoogas military recruitment center. And it was exactly what Abdulazeez

was looking for.


As he drove past the patriotic storefront, Abdulazeez pulled out a gun and opened fire,
spraying the windows with at least 30 bullets. He then sped to a nearby U.S. Naval
Reserve Center and opened fire again. Four Marines died in the attacks. At least three
others were wounded, including members of the Marines, Navy and local police,
before Abdulazeez himself was killed.
Somebody brutally and brazenly attacked members of our armed services,
Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said, according to the Times Free Press.
Mayor Andy Berke called the killings a nightmare for our city, but the brazen assault
was actually far from the first of its kind.
Over the past half century, military recruitment centers have been targeted time and
time again across the country: by Black Panthers and neo-Nazis, Vietnam War
protesters and Japanese communists. Most recently, they have become targets for
Islamist terrorism.

Object 1

The FBI is trying to determine what drove Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez


to attack two U.S. military sites in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he killed four
U.S. Marines. Abdulazeez was apparently killed by police. (AP)
Whoever the attacker, the reasoning is always simple: what better place to find
unarmed soldiers than at a recruitment center?
Recruiting offices have been kind of on the leading edge of targets simply because
they are both ubiquitous and theyre vulnerable, Brian Michael Jenkins of the Rand
Corp. told the Military Times.
These recruiting offices are everywhere, he said. Theyre in shopping centers.
Theyre all around the country. So if you think about attacking a military target, as
opposed to driving to some military base where there will be armed guards at the gate;
if you want a geographically convenient, readily accessible target that the shooter can
portray as a military target, then recruiting stations fit the bill.

So the attack, while shocking, is not surprising, Jenkins said.


Although Abdulazeezs motive is not yet clear, Thursdays attack comes amid a flurry
of threats against American military bases in the United States and abroad from
Islamist terror groups.
[U.S. military boosts security at all stateside bases because of militant threat]
In May, after threats from the Islamic State, the United States boosted security at its
stateside bases.
But unlike bases, with their blast walls and gun turrets, there isnt much that
recruitment centers can do. By definition located in civilian areas, their officers are in
uniform but prohibited from carrying weapons.
Although some military centers near Chattanooga responded to the attack by closing
shop on Thursday, most stayed open. The 6th Marine Corps Recruiting District, which
includes Tennessee, closed all facilities within 40 miles of the shooting.
While we expect our sailors and Marines to go into harms way, and they do so
without hesitation, an attack at home, in our community, is insidious and
unfathomable, said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a statement.

Object 2

Authorities say at least four victims and one gunman are dead, with three
others injured, in shootings at a Naval reserve center in Chattanooga, Tenn.,
on Thursday. (Reuters)
Aside from the center in Chattanooga, the Armys recruiting stations remained open
for business as usual, Brian Lepley, a spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting
Command, told the Military Times. He added that the Army trains recruiters every year
on how to deal with active shooting scenarios.
Representatives from the Army and Air Force said current safety procedures are
adequate, according to the Military Times. But Thursdays shooting has already led to
calls for recruiters to be armed.

Harry Houck, a former NYPD detective, told CNN that it was time to change the
militarys gun-free zone mindset for recruitment and reserve centers.
Im a Marine. And this really is hitting me a little harder here than normal that [these
Marines] werent able to protect themselves at the time this occurred, he said. We
need people that are armed.
Lepley, the Army spokesman, said that was unlikely.
We cant have barricaded centers. We cant have places where we recruit young men
and women that look like a fortress, he told the Military Times. We have to have a
connection to the American people.
That tension between projecting strength to the public and, at the same time,
protecting their officers has haunted military recruitment centers for decades. In
small towns across the country, U.S. Armed Forces offices are immediately
recognizable: splashed in aggressively patriotic imagery and staffed by men and
women in full uniform (just without the guns).
Yet that same symbolism, so necessary for drawing recruits, has often made these
centers targets for attackers ranging from jihadists to Japanese militia members.
Military recruiting centers were first targeted during the Vietnam War. As the casualties
mounted and the campaign became bitterly unpopular, anti-war activists began
bombing recruitment offices across the United States.
On Jan. 2, 1973, a U.S. Navy recruiting center in Portland was seriously damaged by
a bomb explosion. Two days later, a nearby U.S. Army recruiting center was
dynamited. Frank Stearns Giese, a 63-year-old former Oregon college professor, was
convicted of plotting the bombings based upon his fingerprints being found on a Black
Panther book.
In 1986, 22-year-old neo-Nazi Robert Elliot Pires was arrested and accused of a string
of bombings, including an attempted attack on a military recruitment building.
Two years later, Yu Kikumura, a member of the Japanese Red Army, a communist
militia, was arrested while planning to bomb a military recruitment office in Manhattan
to protest the U.S. bombing of Libya.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, however, military recruitment centers have primarily been
targeted by Islamist terrorists.
In the most attention-grabbing attack, a homemade bomb exploded on March 6, 2008,
outside a U.S. military recruiting office in Times Square. Security cameras showed
someone on a bicycle plant the bomb and then speed off before the blast, yet no one
was ever caught. In June 2013, the FBI and NYPD offered a $65,000 reward for
information on the attack. And on April 15 of this year, the reward was increased to
$115,000. The FBI says it has persons of interest but has not made any arrests.
No one was injured in the Times Square bombing. But a year later, another attack on a
recruitment center in Little Rock, Ark., ended in bloodshed. In an attack presaging

Thursdays, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad opened fire as he drove by a recruiting


office, killing one soldier and wounding another. Muhammad, born Carlos Leon
Bledsoe, was an American who converted to Islam as an adult. He is now serving a
sentence of life in prison.
In 2010, Muhammad Hussain, another convert to Islam originally named Antonio
Martinez, was arrested while allegedly plotting to bomb a military recruiting center in
Maryland.
That same year, a former Marine named Yonathan Melaku was arrested for shooting
at a Marine Corps recruiting station and a Coast Guard recruiting station in separate
incidents in Virginia. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
And in 2011, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh were arrested for
allegedly planning attacks on a recruiting station in Seattle.
Recruiters have also faced other difficulties stemming from the countrys 14 straight
years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. As during the Vietnam War, activists have
picketed recruiting centers, particularly during the invasion of Iraq.
Parents will tell us all the time that Johnnys not joining! and just hang up on us, Sgt.
1st Class John J. Stover, a Topeka recruiter, told the New York Times in 2004. The
difference is that no one has ever recruited during a sustained war.
But in Tennessee, a state that prides itself on its military history, there was nothing but
praise and prayers for recruiters and their fellow service members on Thursday.
We live in the Volunteer State, a state thats rich with tradition and affiliation with our
armed forces, said Berke, the Chattanooga mayor, during a Thursday night news
conference.
We cannot countenance what happened to those four families today, he said. Our
hearts ache for them.

Michael E. Miller is a foreign affairs reporter for The Washington Post. He writes for the
Morning Mix news blog. Tweet him: @MikeMillerDC
Posted by Thavam