In movies, the military is often portrayed as a hyper-secure workplace with soldiers performing their tasks like cogs in a well-oiled machines.
Reality is much different.
Fort Bragg was the home of a civilian “con-artist” who tricked his way into living in the barracks along with other soldiers, reports The Fayetteville Observer, citing a 100-page investigation released by the U.S. Army after the newspaper filed a Freedom of Information request.
Fort Bragg isn’t supposed to be some podunk operation. It is one of the largest military installations on earth and home to the Army’s airborne forces, Special Forces, and the U.S. Army Forces Command. And it’s where the Braves and Marlins will play July 3.
The civilian was living on the base for several months pretending to be an explosive ordnance disposal specialist for A Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, but, according to the Army, has no record of military service.
He got out of drills and other chores by claiming he was attending a top-secret school on the base.
The Army didn’t reveal the man’s name, but the newspaper did a little digging and says he’s Triston Marquell Chase, a 20-year-old who has racked up at six felony charges since 2014 in just one N.C. county.
The Observer said Chase is accused of stealing a credit card and ordering a pizza. He’s also accused of stealing a Sig Sauer P-225 handgun, a Mossberg 500A shotgun, a large survival knife and electronics.
The civilian’s unusual living arrangement was discovered after he was confronted Dec. 12 by military police in the parking lot of an on-base KFC.
The man we will henceforth refer to as Chase identified himself to police as a “barracks noncommissioned officer,” the Observer says. Military police said he was slurring his speech, unable to balance himself and his eyes were red, watery and bloodshot. He said “Yeah, I’m wasted,” while taking a breathalyzer test.
Police found three different identification cards on the man, but none matched the registered owner of the Chevrolet Impala he was driving.
Chase was charged with DUI, resisting arrest, open container, driving with a suspended license and underage consumption of alcohol. He was released on his own recognizance along with a female passenger, who was not charged.
Military police who informed the 3rd Special Forces Group of the DUI arrest were told there was no record of such a soldier.
An officer launched an investigation and found the soldier who owned the towed Impala and had loaned it to Chase. The soldier said the mystery man was often seen near the base’s motor pool.
The officer found Chase “outside [the barracks] with six soldiers standing in formation.”
When the officer told Chase he needed to speak with him, he said he was busy because “my supervisor told me to get these guys straight.”
When asked for ID, he presented the card of another soldier and said he was ” just arrived to 3rd Group from Delta Company, 82nd Airborne Division,” which, according to the officer, made no sense at all.
Chase was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.
The officer later learned Chase was given a key to a third-floor barracks room by someone who thought he was homeless. Chase became such a familiar presence at the barracks he was often seen conducting room inspections and assigning rooms to new soldiers.
Soldiers said women often visited the civilian’s room and brought him food.
The security system outside the barracks was broken.
The investigation revealed the barracks manager had lost track of room keys and “didn’t have a clear answer on the accountability practices.”
New keys for 26 rooms had to be made because they couldn’t be found.
Another soldier who loaned Chase his car said living in the barracks is “a disaster.”
“Security is nonexistent in any way, shape or form. There literally is none at all. There is also zero accountability for anything. Zero for rooms, people, equipment, property, etc,” the solder said in the investigation.
The Army says they have it under control.
“The leadership continues to address security shortfalls identified in the [investigation]. To the extent the ongoing criminal investigation identifies other security shortfalls, it is premature to respond,” the Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office said. “We need to stress that we are constantly working to ensure the safety of our soldiers, both deployed and at home.”
Unfortunately, pretending you have military service is rather common. But, as military.com points out, most pretenders don’t go to active military bases and take over barracks and lead formations, like Chase.
Some say they are a Green Beret and fatally botch a civilian rescue mission.
Some recruit Chinese immigrants and tell them they will serve in the “special forces” and be given U.S. citizenship.
And at least one has claimed to have earned a Silver Star and gotten a sweet gig with Fox News as a military expert.
It’s getting to where you can’t trust anyone, or the movies — or military base security.