From Veteran to Traitor
Larry Rendall Brock Jr., seen here among a mob of violent, anti-American insurrectionists, carrying restraints for hostage-taking in the Senate Chambers, is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, and an experienced military aviator. Speaking as a soon-to-be retired lieutenant colonel in the Marine reserves and an experienced aviator myself, do not for a second be impressed by this resume. Anyone in the military can tell you about terrible officers and anyone in aviation can tell you about dumb-ass pilots. Before he attacked the same government he once swore an oath to defend, he flew an airplane, and led a flight. Maybe he was a good pilot. Maybe he was a good flight leader. Nothing he learned or experienced over those years prevented him from becoming an enemy of America.
Here's the part I can't figure out, though - his experience should have kept him from getting caught. If you are in the habit of embarrassing yourself publicly, you don't get to have a successful career in aviation, to be promoted to lieutenant colonel, and to be given command of a flight. To achieve those things, you have to be a politician. You have to provide results for your superiors and keep your subordinates more or less content. You have to be an absolute master of avoiding blame. According to his resume he served as his unit's "chief operations inspector." I'm not sure what the Marine Corps equivalent of that job would be, but if it's anything like what the title suggests, it has to do with checking that things are being done properly. Every day in a position of authority in a squadron, you have to put your name on something, be it a procedure, a policy letter, or a flight schedule, knowing that it may fail, and you have to be 100% sure that even if it does, you cannot be blamed for the fallout. This means ensuring that you and your subordinates are following every rule, and being seen to follow every rule. Meticulous maintenance of your reputation is a core skill.
Let's go one step past that - as a flight leader in a fighter squadron, he is something of a security expert. His unit undoubtedly had classified equipment and publications on-hand, and he was responsible for their physical and electronic security. It would have already been standard practice during the time that he was on active duty, for example, to leave all personal electronics outside of any space where classified materials are stored or discussed, because of the danger of electronic surveillance. He would have been a trained expert at using encrypted and frequency-agile radio communications while flying because of the danger of being overheard or jammed if speaking "in the clear." He would have received training on counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence doctrine, as well as how to escape and evade in hostile territory. This is not some teenage rioter or internet loudmouth. This is a trained professional with relevant experience.
You can even see the attention to detail in his planning for the attack. He took the time to use carabiners to clip his ammo pouches to the front MOLLE webbing of his plate carrier where they would be within easy reach even if his coat was zipped up. His helmet chinstrap fits perfectly, and the helmet alignment is textbook-perfect. He took time to consider the physical dangers of the operation and prepared for them.
So why didn't he conceal his identity? Why didn't he wear a face mask? Why did he wear his unit insignia on his gear, making him easy to identify? Where was his operational security?
Maybe he didn't come to Washington DC to storm the Capitol. Maybe he was seized by the excitement of the moment, and, found himself going along with the crowd, his behavior becoming more extreme as theirs did. Maybe he is just a deeply stupid man. This is always a possibility when dealing with field grade officers (A field grade officer once asked me in a mission briefing how I could be certain that an object dropped out of an aircraft would fall down and not up).
I don't think that's it, though. I think he was more worried about being stabbed by "antifa" than worried about being ID'd by the FBI because he didn't think that what he was doing would be considered a crime after it was done. He thought that, on January 7th, Trump's power would be absolute, and that, far from getting in trouble with the law for his actions, he would be able to proudly report that he had been on the front lines. He didn't think operational security was necessary because, after all, the operation was planned in the open, led openly, and conducted openly. He didn't expect the government to punish him because he believed that the legitimate government was giving him his marching orders.
So how did he end up believing this? We all know the story. He probably started out a mainstream republican and became more and more conservative and more and more angry over the last few years as he descended into the online right-wing echo chamber. The Qanon cult has been counting down to "The Storm," where the secular government would be overthrown, and a new, Great Awakening government would take its place for years now. Like every other member of the group that attacked us on January 6th, he believed that the day had come. The shock they all felt when Trump failed to capitalize on the attack and seize control is still reverberating through right-wing spaces on the Internet.
You can see his confusion in his statements after the fact. When a New Yorker reporter asked him about the zip ties, this was his response:
“I wish I had not picked those up,” . . . . “My thought process there was I would pick them up and give them to an officer when I see one. . . . I didn’t do that because I had put them in my coat, and I honestly forgot about them.”
That is the type of defense you expect to hear from a 19 year old Marine trying to explain to his First Sergeant why he just happens to have a bag of synthetic marijuana in his glove compartment, not from a decorated field grade officer. LtCol Brock is confused, let down by the power structure he thought was there to support him. So what can we learn from this story? What is the significance of this man's presence in the insurrection?
I think there are several things can learn.
This is a successful man, with military retirement benefits and a well-paying job as a civilian pilot. This is not a movement of the poor, motivated by "economic anxiety." This is a movement of the comfortable, motivated by hate.
This is an educated man, with access to more information than most of us thanks to his clearance and contacts. He undoubtedly has peers and colleagues with high-level Federal jobs. He could easily have reached out to people who could have told him the truth about the election. Instead he strapped on his plate carrier. This is not a movement of the ignorant, it is a movement of those who have chosen to believe lies.
This is a serious man, who matches his actions to his words. We need to believe people like him when they tell us what they are going to do. "Storm The Capitol" was a common rallying cry online for weeks before January 6th. Then it became a reality. Don't be surprised next time.
This is a responsible man, who knows that actions have consequences. He knew that his behavior would only be justified if the attempt to overthrow the United States Government was successful, and he made no effort to hide it. That was the plan. Don't let anyone convince you that this was something else.
This is NOT a defeated man. He is worried, rattled, giving interviews to the press, which no field grade officer would normally do without a public affairs specialist present. He has been fired from his civilian job. Don't let that fool you. Unless he is punished to the full extent of the law, he will be back, and the fight to protect our Republic from him and his ilk is just beginning.