On Monday morning I was visiting a friend who is on the Standing Stone Camp security force. We were in my truck rolling around looking at things in and around the camp.
The night before I had been patrolling near the Turtle Island where the Morton County Sheriff deployed some of his soldiers. Bright lights, concertina wire was all in check. Nothing moved or changed. The scene had remained the same for weeks.
Nothing to see here, so I decided to cruise around near the Cannon Ball ice river and on fields well suited for pasture, no rocks or obstructions. l was charging around testing the limits of my 4-wheel drive truck and its traction.
I plan on establishing a thruway on the river ice when I get back from D.C. Friday night. The weather out there was warming up; on the night in question, Sunday, it was a balmy 25 degrees. But, the ice remains at about 2 to 3 feet on top, more than enough to support vehicles.
On Monday, my friend and I finished our drive and ended up at the Backwater Bridge. By then half the blockade had been removed by North Dakota law enforcement.
We were talking as we were testing my new pair of Air Force military binoculars with enhanced night vision and range finder. Boo yeah. They work great. We could see the hinges on the outhouse the cops have on the hill due south-by-southeast.
We were talking and I spotted something different, something very different: An additional obstacle did I see. Darker than the desert dust-colored Humvees that have so far been commonplace.
I zeroed in on the new site and to my surprise, to my befuddlement, as clear as day there sat parked a modified Humvee. Modified how? Well, the Humvee was a platform for a Mobile Avenger Missile Launcher. We’re talking some pretty savvy laser-aimed, heat-seeking bad-to-the-bone weaponry, complete with night vision sensors and range finder and 50-caliber gun.
“What on god’s green earth is this exactly?” I exclaimed, in a voice near like to a scream.
Later, a veteran buddy looked it up to be sure, matched it up with our pictures, and based on his experience noted:
“My suspicion is that the Avenger Missile Systems deployed to Standing Rock are a cost-effective alternative to having an Apache Helo flying overhead when they need it. The Avenger system has Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) Capabilities. The civilian plane and helicopter probably don't have FLIR and that is when they need an Apache Helo to "monitor" situations under darkness and record for evaluation later. Instead of calling up the Apache, they can have Avengers on-site for instant intelligence day or night. The Avenger system also has video capabilities. It costs them far less to have an Avenger system on the ground 24 hrs a day than to deploy an Apache Helo occasionally. The security ground forces have Night Vision but the Avenger has FLIR and a laser rangefinder along with video capabilities. The FLIR will be at least a plate-sized round lense mounted on the weapon rail on the left side (driver side) if there is one. Just a suspicion. If I am correct, there should be more info to request in a FOIA. The sheriff's Department can't all have TS Sec clearances so if they brief them all using Avenger footage, it should be low hanging fruit that would be unclassified.”
I thought to myself, “Imagine that, a missile locking on a prayer. Ghandi would understand this image.”
Remember Barney Fife in the Andy Griffith show of the early 60s? Andy would allow Barney only one bullet for his revolver.
Well, someone on some government level (Homeland Security is my guess) gave these badged yokels not one but two Avengers, each housing 8 rounds of missiles. It would be only a matter of time before one of the Barney’s over there would come to work still buzzed from the Super Bowl festivities and while leaning over, to puke, say, accidently put his hand up to balance himself on the FIRE button. Or, worse, intentionally and meanly FIRE the thing.
BTW, the missile launchers were aimed at the Camp.
Wednesday afternoon, my colleagues and I had the chance to accept an invite by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell to conduct an exit interview with her on all things Indian country. During the interview I took the chance to show her the pictures I had on my phone. The expression on her face was one of horror. She maintained her composure quickly and simply said, “This looks like something out of Star Wars.” She was referring not just to the strange sight of the Avenger, but its grey brown surroundings. Frankly, it looks like death follows this launcher where-ever it goes. And, indeed it does.
I woke up today to the news that the Avenger missile launchers are now out of sight. The Daily Beast carried a statement from National Guard spokesperson William Prokopyk: “Its removal demonstrates our commitment to deescalating any tensions its presence may have caused.” Apparently, according to this statement, my buddy’s initial reaction was correct. The Guard insists the launcher’s role was “passive”—merely a warm place to observe the camp with high-tech vision equipment that they had quietly used for over a month in lieu of employee expensive Apache helicopters.
Oh, and they say the thing was not armed: “All munitions are strictly controlled by the United States Army.”
It appears the military has abandoned its number one rule: Don’t carry an empty gun to a fight. Doesn’t that make us all feel better?