Privates in the US Army are known for making some dumb decisions.
They usually have just come from living at home with mommy and daddy within the last 12 months, and are still trying to figure out how the whole Army thing works, and where they fit in. For former PVT Ethan Phelan Melzer, 24, of Louisville, Kentucky, this wasn’t with the Army at all. Rather it was with an extremist group known as Order of Angels Nine or OA9, where he became a member back in 2017.
OA9 is a radical, violent, anarchist group founded in the UK. Melzer had spent some time trying to impress them with his violent acts, including shooting a drug dealer back in January 2017 while trying to earn a self-initiation. These kinds of actions as well as joining the military are exactly what OA9 wants its members to do.
Getting paid to take training in how to be more ruthless and to be a killer are right up their alley, as is having a pool of potential recruits right there at their fingertips. Finding weak-minded people to convert over during this timeframe is usually easy, as recruits are being broken down during training, and that period makes their moral compass very weak.
While stationed in Italy in October 2019, Melzer began taking in more propaganda from extremist groups, including radical Islamic factions. This persisted through to May of 2020 when the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team started providing him with details regarding an upcoming deploying unit he was to be transferred to.
It was this deployment that would put Melzer in an isolated, sensitive, and softer target location for terroristic actions. Following this notice, he began taking weeks of sensitive briefings and training. This information was immediately passed to OA9, where he proposed as well as planned a deadly attack on his fellow service members.
Ideally, Melzer would have caused a mass casualty event via a jihad-style attack. This would essentially cripple their fireteams and make the unit not only incredibly weak but he would have likely been taken out with them. This would have made him a hero in the eyes of OA9, or so he believed. It also would have compromised the integrity of the entire small base and made it very susceptible to being overrun.
After he was initially arrested, the defense filed a motion and tried claiming that Melzer’s claims of membership to others online were “bluster – falsities designed to impress the people he was communicating with online.” They admitted he had been curious but found their beliefs to be the total opposite of his own.
In a release on June 24th, he admitted he joined this group that promotes neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs, and joined the Army to try and dismantle it from the inside out by identifying like-minded individuals.
For pleading guilty, Melzer will be sentenced on January 6th, 2023. He faces up to 45 years in prison for trying to murder U.S. military service members, seeking to support terrorists, and illegally transmitting national defense information. With any luck since this is being tried in Manhattan federal court, he’ll be spending time in the general population and his new inmates can show him some true American prison love, and he isn’t saved by yet another radical.
What is most puzzling about this case is how the background investigators missed this on his background check before he was allowed to enlist or get a security clearance. Almost as puzzling is how a neo-Nazi and Satanic group is also in favor of or promoting Islamic extremism. While the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” still has some weight to it, these groups typically tend to stay more segregated from one another. Then again, Melzer isn’t the only one to pop up in the last few years. Maybe the common enemy has brought them together?