When R. Scott Moxley and I reported on the arrest and guilty plea of Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen to terrorism charges, we both dutifully relayed the FBI's line that the 24-year-old out of Little Saigon was a licensed security guard. What was not disclosed at the time was the Garden Grove resident trained with the California state militia at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.
Captain Will Martin, chief of Media Relations with the California Military Department in Sacramento, confirmed for the Weekly Thursday afternoon that Nguyen joined the State Military Reserve in September 2011 and attended the October, November and December training weekends in Los Alamitos. But Nguyen never returned for his volunteer service after having put in 44 hours, Martin added.
Nguyen pleaded guilty Dec. 27 to a federal terrorism charge that he planned to fly to Pakistan and provide weapons training to members of al-Qaida. He had been indicted by a federal grand jury after having applied for a U.S. passport under the fake name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum and cooked up a scheme to fake his death. Nguyen faces up to 15 years in federal prison at his scheduled March 21 sentencing.
His role with the California State Military Reserve (CSMR) was exposed by CalGuardCorruption.com, a website that alleges there is sweeping corruption within the California Military Department, which includes the CSMR and California National Guard under its umbrella.
"Private Sinh Vinh Nguyen, who had previously fought in Syria for opposition forces, returned to the state and joined the California State Reserve," claims the website. "... Federal prosecutors, likely at the request of the California National Guard, made a point of noting in the record that Nguyen was never a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. But what never came out in court was that Nguyen was actually a sworn member of the State Reserve, a federally recognized military force under United States Code, Title 32. The official statement that Nguyen was never a part of the U.S. Armed Forces is a technical distinction, meant to try to protect the Department of Defense."
Martin said he could not confirm Nguyen served in Syria because he does not have information beyond the volunteer's "short stint" with the CSMR, which, he noted, "is not federally authorized."
"It is a state-sanctioned force that exists solely to support the California National Guard (CNG) in its training and readiness," Martin explained. "Unlike the CNG, it has no federal mission (e.g. it can't be federally mobilized to combat or bear arms in defense of U.S. citizens)."
CalGuardCorruption.com claimed Nguyen was "AWOL" from the CSMR, but Martin questioned the accuracy of that.
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"While the CSMR does strive to mirror the U.S. armed forces regulations and standards, their personnel typically serve on a voluntary, non-paid status, so the enlistments are not binding in the same sense that an enlistment would be in the Army or Air National Guard," Martin said. "Therefore, it wouldn't be accurate to say he was AWOL in the traditional, military sense of the term because he was a volunteer in the first place."
The website calls the disclosure of Nguyen's role with the reserve "yet another embarrassment for the corrupt California Guard," and claims Nguyen was a member of "a corrupt military police unit" at the Los Alamitos base.
"Corrupt" is a word the site throws around quite a bit, accusing the state's National Guard and/or Military Department of: eliminating a requirement, without the authorization or oversight of the state Legislature, that all members of the State Reserve have prior federal military service; appointing members to the State Reserve in violation of state laws and regulations; and lavishing friends and family members of high ranking guard officers with high-paying jobs.