As President Donald Trump’s supporters massed outside the Capitol last week, a line of men wearing helmets and body armor trudged up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each holding the jacket collar of the one ahead. The “Ranger File” formation is standard for a combat team “stacking up” to breach a building, instantly recognizable to any soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob either had military training or were trained by those who did, the Associated Press reports. At least 21 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation. Those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armor and technology like two-way radio headsets similar to those of the police they confronted.
Experts in homegrown extremism have warned about efforts by far-right militants and white-supremacist groups to recruit people with military and law enforcement training. They say the Jan. 6 insurrection that left five people dead saw their worst fears realized. “ISIS and al-Qaida would drool over having someone with the training and experience of a U.S. military officer,” said former FBI agent Michael German, now at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “These people have training and capabilities that far exceed what any foreign terrorist group can do. Foreign terrorist groups don’t have any members who have badges.” A review of videos and photos from the riot shows scores of people wearing military-style gear, including helmets, body armor, rucksacks and two-way radios. Dozens carried canisters of bear spray, baseball bats, hockey sticks and pro-Trump flags attached to stout poles later used to bash police officers.