Hoffman, North Carolina, population 588, is a majority Black town in a majority-white county, next to which, not long ago, Oak Grove Technologies moved in. Oak Grove is a self described Tactical and Cultural Training Center occupying 300 acres between Hoffman and nearby Camp McCall. According to the company’s website, facilities include a multi-story shoot house, a small arms range, rappelling tower, explosive breaching bay, and five “realistic cultural training villages ranging in size and type with available role players and livestock.”
The company insists they only train sworn professionals, but the center’s website declares that Oak Grove offers “all capabilities to Department of Defense, government agencies, law enforcement, healthcare, commercial and non-profit organizations.”
The residents of tiny Hoffman have serious questions about what’s actually going on at the end of their road. They could deal with the shooting, but when the centers’ clients started blowing stuff up a stone’s throw from their backyards, then life became pretty unbearable.
Roderick Brower imagined building his own house here, in his family’s home place, beside its large rye field, beneath its towering Eastern Pines. This September, pink petunias were still blooming in the pots hanging outside his mother, Barbara’s kitchen, but she and Roderick have had to move elsewhere on account of the explosions happening at all hours.
It’s not noisy like truck traffic or thunder, they told me. It’s shake the-windows, rattle-your-bones, drive-even-hunting-dogs-up-the-walls noisy.
Barbara — 81 — has a heart condition. Roderick was worried.
His worries intensified when he watched an armed insurrection take over the Capitol January 6th. The decals and demeanor of the rioters in DC looked a whole lot like those on the guys racing up his road. Long beards and bumper stickers, dark glasses, driving at speed, the men coming to Oak Grove didn’t look like “sworn professionals” to him.
Who’s training in Hoffman? According to a report from the Costs of War this September, Pentagon spending totaled over $14 trillion over the course of the war of Afghanistan, with one-third to one-half going to for-profit contractors. Alongside caterers and cleaners and the manufacturers of tanks and planes, today’s contractors include companies training not only current and former military, and cops and private guards, but also civilians seeking to be more “prepared.”
In addition to companies like Blackwater (now Academi) which was founded in NC’s Dismal Swamp in 1988 and Oak Grove, North Carolina’s home to Frontline, Spartan, The Range and others — all of which claim to offer realistic combat and live fire training to government, corporate and private individuals.
Veteran activists organizing across this state, are concerned about a seemingly unmonitored flow of military grade weapons, training, and white warrior ideology out of the state’s privatized military and into civilian lives.
Fifty years after President Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex, they’re sounding an alarm about a “para/military industrial complex” and they’re working with communities to stand up for safety.
We tell the rest of the story this week on the Laura Flanders Show. Subscribe to our channel on YouTube, or check the listings at our website to watch on public tv or listen on community radio. Or read the article in The Nation this week. Visit lauraflanders.org for details.